“Africa needs to boost agricultural productivity and address the debilitating hunger that affects 27 percent of its population if it is to sustain its economic boom, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said [in a report] on Tuesday,” Reuters reports (Migiro, 5/15). In its first-ever “Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future,” UNDP “notes that with more than one in four of its 856 million people undernourished, sub-Saharan Africa remains the world’s most food insecure region,” the Guardian writes. According to the newspaper, the report says, “Hunger and extended periods of malnutrition not only devastate families and communities in the short term, but leave a legacy with future generations which impairs livelihoods and undermines human development.”
“Governments are failing to fund projects to improve access to toilets and other sanitation services in poor countries because the subject remains ‘taboo,’ a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Monday,” Reuters reports. “About 1.1 billion people across the world still defecate in the open because they have no toilets, according to the United Nations,” Reuters writes. “It’s the last big taboo and as a result more than one million kids die every year. Diarrhea is the second largest cause of death after respiratory infections in young children,” Frank Rijsberman, director of water, sanitation and hygiene at the foundation, said at the Global Water Summit 2012 conference in Rome, the news service notes.
Efforts To Fight Cholera In DRC Need To Include Sanitation, Waste Facility Improvements, Behavior Change, UNICEF Official Says
A cholera epidemic that began in January 2011 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is continuing because of “poor hygiene, lack of awareness of the population about transmission mechanisms, very limited access to protected and monitored water sources and lack of sanitation infrastructure,” according to Nona Zicherman, chief of emergency operations in DRC for UNICEF, IRIN reports. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 30,000 cholera cases have been identified and more than 700 people have died of the disease since June 2011, the news service states. Zicherman “noted that emergency and medium- and long-term interventions to limit the spread of cholera needed to be developed,” including disinfecting contaminated areas, monitoring water sources, changing behaviors related to hygiene, and constructing water supply and sanitation facilities, according to IRIN (4/30).
“The world is falling behind in its pledge to reduce HIV/AIDS infections and improve treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a U.N. report [.pdf] released Monday” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Associated Press reports. The report to the U.N. General Assembly “said that ‘critical challenges remain’ if the world is to make good on promises made at a U.N.-sponsored meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011,” the AP writes (Alt Powell, 4/30). “Among the targets set by the international community at the June 2011 high-level meeting are the elimination of new HIV/AIDS infections in children, cutting sexually transmitted infections by 50 percent, and delivering antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people,” Xinhua/China Daily notes (5/1).
The May issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on the establishment of an evidence base for e-health; a public health round-up; an article on the future of e-health technologies; a research paper on the use of e-health in low- and middle-income countries; and a systematic review on the factors that promote or inhibit the implementation of e-health systems (May 2012).
Inter Press Service examines the relationship between climate change and family planning in least-developed countries (LDCs), writing the “double challenge of mitigating climate change and combating crushing poverty makes improving reproductive rights and promoting gender equality imperatives that can no longer be delayed, according to several recent reports and agreements.” IPS highlights several reports and agreements, including an agreement between U.N. Women and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) that “aims at tackling gender inequality in the 75 OIF member states, most of which are also LDCs”; an agreement between U.N. Women and the European Union “to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations in their work on gender equality”; and the Royal Society of London’s People and the Planet report, “which focuses on reproductive rights and social justice as cornerstones of global economic sustainability” (Godoy, 5/30).
In this Atlantic opinion piece, Rachel Hills, a freelance writer based in London, examines the WHO’s decision on May 25 to declare polio a public health emergency, “calling for the 194 member states to fully fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and fill the currently $945 million gap in its budget for 2012-13.” She writes, “Few people probably associate the phrase ‘global health emergency’ with polio, a disease that has been around for 5,000 years and is on a decades-long decline so steep that there are less than a thousand recorded cases left on Earth,” but “polio’s threat is still very real, and the mission to finally stamp it out forever is a crucial one for reasons even bigger than the disease itself.”
The United Nations humanitarian office on Tuesday released its 2011 Annual Report of the Central Emergency Response Fund, which highlights the contributions of the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to humanitarian partners in 45 countries in 2011, the U.N. News Center reports. “Financed by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local governments, the private sector and individual donors, the CERF is a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to those affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts, helping agencies to pre-position funding for humanitarian action,” the news service notes (5/29).
“Sustainable development cannot be realized unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated, the [Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)] said in a policy document prepared for the Rio+20 Summit to be held in June in Rio de Janeiro,” an FAO press release reports. “At the Rio Summit, we have the golden opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and sustainability to ensure that happens,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, according to the press release. The report says, “Improving agricultural and food systems is essential for a world with both healthier people and healthier ecosystems,” the release notes (5/30). According to Reuters, “The governments attending the Rio+20 summit in June should commit themselves to speed up efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition and use the U.N.’s voluntary guidelines on the right to food, the FAO said” (5/30).
“U.N. officials say they expect 18 million people in West Africa will go hungry this year, including three million young children whose lives or health will be at risk,” the Associated Press reports. David Gressly, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for nine countries in Africa’s Sahel region, told reporters on Tuesday that at least one million children’s lives will be threatened by malnutrition in 2012, and malnutrition will cause health problems for another two million children under age five, according to the news agency. Gressly said drought, failed harvests, and political instability were making this the worst hunger crisis to hit the region since 2005, the AP notes (5/29).