David Winder, chief executive of WaterAid USA, highlights the findings of the recently released UNICEF report on child mortality in this Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, saying the decrease in annual number of child deaths “is great news, but is tempered by sobering statistics, especially for children in sub-Saharan Africa,” who continue to face high rates of mortality. “However all is not lost and much can be done to ameliorate the situation. Improving access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is a key step in preventing many of these needless deaths,” he writes, adding, “Known collectively as WASH, these three basic services are important factors in preventing pneumonia and diarrhea, the leading causes of mortality among children between one month and five years of age.”
Water and Sanitation
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “warned on Friday that Haiti was struggling to cope with a cholera epidemic that has killed thousands and deteriorating conditions in tent camps as aid groups withdraw from the impoverished country due to a lack of funding,” Reuters reports. “In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said there had been an increase in the number of cholera cases since the rainy season began in early March and the World Health Organization had projected there could be up to 112,000 cases during 2012,” the news service writes.
With nearly 6,000 reported cholera cases, including more than 100 deaths, Guinea is facing the worst cholera outbreak since 2007, and “some residents of the capital Conakry are clamoring to be vaccinated,” IRIN reports. “The cholera vaccine has shown promising results in the handful of communities where it has been used: none of those vaccinated have been infected,” the news service writes, noting, “For now cholera vaccination is not generally done on a large scale.” According to IRIN, “WHO and partner agencies are planning a cholera vaccine stockpile for epidemic control and looking at the possibility of introducing the two-dose oral vaccine into national immunization programs in endemic areas,” but the agency also “says such stockpiles should not detract from other prevention efforts: detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cases with oral rehydration and antibiotics; establishment of a safe water supply; implementation of adequate waste disposal, sanitation, and hygiene; and communication and social mobilization.”
Noting “World Water Week recently concluded in Stockholm with a special emphasis on the linkages between water and food security,” Lakshmi Puri, assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of U.N. Women, writes in this Inter Press Service opinion piece, “Creating a water- and food-secure world requires putting women and girls at the center of water- and food-related policies, actions and financing.” She continues, “Women are not only beneficiaries of greater water and food security; they can also enable greater progress in these areas.” Puri states, “Four urgent actions must be taken to unleash women’s potential.”
“Cholera vaccine gives indirect protection to unvaccinated people in communities where a substantial fraction of the population gets the vaccine,” according to a study from the island of Zanzibar in East Africa, published in the Lancet on Tuesday, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “The effect is called ‘herd immunity,’” the blog notes. According to “Shots,” “half the people in six rural and urban areas received two doses of oral cholera vaccine,” and “[f]or those who got it, the vaccine was 79 percent protective against the disease” while “their neighbors who didn’t get vaccinated had almost as much protection.”
“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.
U.N. Official Calls For More Leadership, Funding, Comprehensive Plan To Address Potential Humanitarian Crisis In Sahel
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday “called for strong leadership and a comprehensive response plan, as well as donor support, for the food crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, warning that hunger could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/24). Amos “met with President Macky Sall in Senegal and Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso on a four-day trip to west Africa to examine the impact of the food crisis,” Agence France-Presse writes. “We can do more to avoid the crisis from becoming a catastrophe in the region but to save more lives we need strong leadership … and continued generosity from the regional and humanitarian community,” she said, the news agency notes (5/24). The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Amos heads, said that in addition to food aid, “priorities for those in need of assistance include health care and water and sanitation services,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/24).
Bloomberg Markets Examines Spread Of Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria In India, Discusses Global Implications
Bloomberg Markets magazine in its June issue examines microbes that incorporate the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1, or NDM-1, gene, making them resistant to nearly all available antibiotics. The article focuses on India, where the gene is thought to have developed due to the widespread and uncontrolled use of antibiotics, but notes that cases of NDM-1 antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been documented in Canada, France, Italy, Kosovo, and South Africa, without patients having traveled to India. Bloomberg describes how the gene was discovered and named; how NDM-1 is affecting India’s medical tourism industry; what the Indian government and health officials in the country and elsewhere are doing to fight multidrug-resistant bacteria; and how NDM-1 is spreading through the water and possibly food supply in India. “The number of countries reporting NDM-1 will continue to grow as more bacteria pick up the gene and people transport it around the globe,” Bloomberg writes (Gale/Narayan, 5/7).
Applauding the signing of the so-called “London Declaration on NTDs” by a consortium of public and private partners last week, Ned Breslin, CEO of Water For People, writes in this Huffington Post “Impact” opinion piece, “I am saddened by the emphasis on vaccines and medicines as the seemingly only vehicles to eradicate NTDs by London Declaration signatories. And I wonder where water, sanitation and hygiene are in this mix, as by all accounts it is not anywhere to be seen in the NTD eradication initiative.”
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.”