Inter Press Service reports on a cholera outbreak in Malawi’s Nsanje and Chikhwawa districts, located on the southern border with Mozambique, noting that government officials have attributed the outbreak to declining sanitation conditions as a result of flooding in late January. According to IPS, “up to 550 pit latrines were washed away in Nsanje alone, a district hardest hit by the floods,” and “[s]ewage from the latrines has contaminated water sources in the district, including boreholes and dug-out wells, thereby escalating the cholera incidents, according to the assistant Disaster Management Officer for Nsanje, Humphrey Magalasi.”
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
Two years after Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, a “crisis of gender-based violence and exploitation is festering — and foreign aid efforts are still failing to protect survivor communities from harm, or to make the criminal justice system more accountable,” The Nation reports. “In a recent study of conditions surrounding four internally displaced people’s camps, researchers with the Global Justice Center and Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) estimate that ’14 percent of households reported that at least one member of the household had been a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake,’” the news service writes, adding, “Victims were typically young, female, and deprived of access to food, water and sanitation.”
In this post in IntraHealth International’s “Global Health” blog, editorial manager Susanna Smith examines how health care workers operating in areas of conflict are “being used as pawns of warfare.” Smith highlights the decision by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last month to suspend services in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata due to reports of torture and notes, “[MSF] General Director Christopher Stokes called the situation an obstruction and exploitation of the organization’s work.” Smith cites a Center for Strategic and International Studies report released last week “calling for ‘the mere handwringing that has largely greeted attack on the health care in the past’ to ‘be replaced by concerted international action and a system on documentation, protection, and accountability,’” and concludes, “The international community owes at least this much to these health workers, who give so much and put themselves at risk to care for others” (2/2).
This report from the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center, titled “Protection of Health Care in Armed and Civil Conflict,” examines how “action [last year] at the U.N. Security Council, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Department of State, combined with a new campaign by the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society mobilization, led to potential breakthroughs in three key dimensions of protection — documentation, prevention, and accountability.” The summary states, “The opportunity to better protect health services during conflict is palpable” (Rubenstein, 2/1).
“A year of Yemen’s turmoil has exacerbated the number of malnourished children under the age of five to around 750,000, UNICEF said Tuesday, appealing to the government and the international community to help develop the country’s infrastructure to tackle the problem,” the Associated Press reports (Al-Haj/Batrawy, 1/24). “Conflict, poverty and drought, compounded by the unrest of the previous year, the high food and fuel prices, and the breakdown of social services, are putting children’s health at great risks and threatening their very survival,” UNICEF Regional Director Maria Calivis said today, concluding “a two-day visit to Yemen where she saw first-hand the impact of malnutrition on children’s health,” a UNICEF news note states (1/24).
“Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has shut down two major medical centers in the Somali capital Mogadishu after two of its aid workers were shot dead by a former colleague last month, the international medical aid agency said on Thursday,” AlertNet reports. The closure of the two 120-bed centers, the largest of MSF’s 13 projects in Somalia, cuts in half the organization’s presence in the capital, the news service notes, adding that the centers have treated thousands of malnourished children and provided vaccinations or treatments to tens of thousands more patients since August 2011 (Migiro, 1/19).
“Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response, arrived in Niger on Wednesday to see at first hand the extent of food shortages” in the country and announced the European Union (E.U.) “is doubling its humanitarian aid to the Sahel to nearly â‚¬95 million ($122 million) in response to the slow onset emergency in the region, where an estimated 300,000 children are affected by malnutrition annually,” the Guardian reports. Niger, a “vast landlocked country with an estimated 14.7 million people, most of whom live along a narrow border of arable land on its southern border, is bracing itself for a sharp rise in food insecurity in the ‘lean period,’ when food from the last harvest runs out,” the newspaper notes.
International Health Groups Ally To Fight Cholera In Haiti; Officials Emphasize Need For Sanitation Infrastructure
“Unless steps are taken to eliminate cholera from Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, the disease will likely resurge and could even spread to other parts of the Caribbean, international health officials said Wednesday,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 1/11). Officials from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and the CDC “said they would join with the Haitian and Dominican governments to develop a plan to eradicate cholera from the island the two countries share by extending clean water and sanitation to stricken areas,” Reuters writes, adding, “The effort faces a daunting financial challenge if it is to meet a goal of reaching at least two-thirds of the Haitian population by 2015, a task that could cost $1.1 billion” (Morgan, 1/12).
“Internet-based news and Twitter feeds were faster than traditional sources at detecting the onset and progression of the cholera epidemic in post-earthquake Haiti …, according to a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH),” an AJTMH press release states. “The study is the first to demonstrate the use of data from ‘informal’ media sources in monitoring an outbreak of a neglected tropical disease in a resource-limited setting, and shows that these sources can yield reliable decision-making data during deadly disease outbreaks almost in real-time, often far earlier than traditional surveillance methods that include surveys of hospitals and health clinics,” the press release adds (1/9).
“A mentally ill man who bathed in and drank from a contaminated river most likely was the first person to be infected” with cholera in the outbreak that began in Haiti in October 2010, researchers from Partners in Health said in a study published Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/9). “‘This patient’s case is the first in the community’s collective memory to have had symptoms that are recognizable, in retrospect, to be those of cholera,’ according to the study,” CNN’s “The Chart” notes, adding, “There is no lab method to confirm that this was the first patient to start the epidemic, wrote the authors” (Park, 1/9).