CNN examines nodding disease, a seizure disorder that has affected at least 3,000 children in Northern Uganda, as well as children in Liberia, Sudan, and Tanzania. Though the disease has no known cause or cure, “there are clues,” the news service notes, writing, “WHO officials say 93 percent of cases are found in areas also with the parasitic worm Onchocerca Volvulus, which causes river blindness and is carried by the Black Fly. And many cases show a deficiency in Vitamin B6. Nutrition also seems to play an important role.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Though Pakistani officials said Monday there has been a significant decline in the number of families refusing polio vaccination in the country, almost a half million children did not receive the immunization, Agence France-Presse reports. “The number of refusing families has declined (44 percent) from 80,330 during the first national polio round held in January to 45,122 in October,” according to a joint statement from the WHO, the U.N., and the Pakistani government, the news agency writes. “The success achieved notwithstanding, every unvaccinated child constitutes a major challenge,” Elias Durry, WHO senior coordinator for polio eradication, said, according to the news agency. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, a senior adviser to the prime minister, said, “We need to take adequate steps to ensure that the number of children missed for reasons other than refusals is also brought down,” AFP writes. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, where 30 cases have been recorded so far this year, the news agency notes (10/22).
“Chelsea Clinton is taking on the discomforting issue of diarrhea, throwing her family’s philanthropic heft behind a sweeping effort in Nigeria to prevent the deaths of one million mothers and children each year from preventable causes, including 100,000 deaths from diarrhea,” Reuters reports. “The 32-year-old daughter of President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Nigerian officials, the prime minister of Norway and other leaders on Tuesday in promoting expanded access to zinc and oral rehydration solutions or ORS, a treatment that could prevent more than 90 percent of diarrhea-related deaths in the country,” the news agency writes (Steenhuysen, 10/17).
NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria. “[N]orthern Nigeria is the only place in the world where polio cases are increasing,” the blog writes, noting, “As of Sept. 1, it had recorded 90 polio cases in 2012 — or nearly three times as many as in the same period last year.” The blog highlights the city of Kano in northern Nigeria, which “has been called the ‘epicenter’ of the current polio outbreak,” and where “remnants of the paralyzing disease are visible even on its streets.” “Vaccination campaigns are regular fixtures here,” the blog writes, adding, “In the past few years, religious leaders in this region have gone from opposing vaccination to requiring it.”
In this episode of CNN’s “Amanpour,” correspondent Christiane Amanpour talks with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, about childhood stunting, which “threatens 180 million children below the age of five all over the world.” According to the show’s summary, “[m]illions of children around the world are threatened with death, lowered I.Q. and deformities by [the] life-altering condition — one that can be avoided simply by eating enough nutrients.” “It’s probably the least understood, most under-appreciated development issue, human issue, perhaps in the world,” Lake says in the video (Burke/Krever, 10/16).
U.N. Report Shows Francophone African Countries Lag Behind In AIDS Treatment; NGOs Call For Increased Funding
“Despite great progress within a short time, the 29 French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa are lagging far behind other states in the region in the battle against HIV/AIDS and need a massive increase in international aid, according to a United Nations report” (.pdf) released Friday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report — titled “Decision Point La Francophonie: No new HIV infections, no one denied treatment” and released at a meeting of the 56-member state International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) in Kinsasha, Democratic Republic of Congo — said while antiretroviral treatment coverage in IOF countries increased rapidly between 2003 and 2011, resulting in a nearly 30 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths, “an estimated 970,000 people are still waiting to access life-saving HIV treatment in IOF countries, accounting for 14 percent of the global treatment gap,” according to the news service.
Though the number of children dying of preventable and treatable diseases worldwide has dropped significantly since 1990, there is “realistic hope for much more” progress, particularly if “[i]mproved hygiene and sanitation … play a key role in the next stage,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. Noting that “diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading killers of children, accounting for almost 30 percent of under-five deaths globally,” they state, “Vaccines can help, but improved hygiene and sanitation are also vital, and therefore key to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the child mortality rate by at least two-thirds by 2015.”
The international community on Monday observed Global Handwashing Day, GlobalPost reports in a roundup of news coverage surrounding the day. “According to the Guardian, 3,000 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhea alone, making it the second most common cause of child mortality worldwide,” GlobalPost writes. “While it may seem trivial, science has proved handwashing education necessary,” the news service continues, noting Lifebuoy soap estimates that by promoting handwashing “over the last five years the number of deaths caused by diarrhea have been cut in half.” According to GlobalPost, India’s Economic Times reports “a review of 11 countries showed the average rate of handwashing after using the toilet is only 17 percent” (Leasca, 10/15).
The following blog posts were published in recognition of Global Handwashing Day, observed annually on October 15.
On the first annual International Day of the Girl Child, observed October 11, “UNICEF and partners are highlighting joint efforts to end child marriage — a fundamental human rights violation that impacts all aspects of a girl’s life,” the Times of India reports. “[A] series of events and actions are taking place throughout the world to draw attention to this critically important issue,” a UNICEF press statement says, noting, “At U.N. Headquarters in New York, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will join UNICEF, UNFPA, and U.N. Women to discuss ways governments, civil society, U.N. agencies, and the private sector can come together to accelerate a decline in the practice of child marriage” (Gohain, 10/10).