The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, on Thursday launched the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., during a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces addressing the effort.
Water and Sanitation
“Bangladesh, a country crisscrossed with rivers and canals, has one of the highest drowning rates in the world,” the Guardian reports. “More than 17,000 Bangladeshi children drown every year — nearly 50 a day, according to the Bangladesh health and injury survey [.pdf], conducted in 2003,” the news service writes. “A report by UNICEF and the Alliance for Safe Children (Tasc) has found that the cause of death in roughly one in four children who die between one and 10 years of age is drowning,” making “drowning the leading killer of children in Bangladesh, overtaking diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia,” the Guardian adds.
In a policy paper published in Science on Thursday, researchers praised China’s January 2011 plan to address water shortages and conservation in the nation, but “the researchers said this commitment won’t be enough unless disparate agencies learn to communicate and coordinate with each other,” Reuters reports. “They described a web of government entities with seemingly contradictory missions, and actions that appear to go against one policy as they promote another,” the news service writes, adding, for example, “The government encourages urbanization, the report said, but protection of water supplies gets less attention compared to energy issues, even though water is absolutely essential to human life.” Reuters continues, “To solve these problems, the authors recommended focusing on increasing water efficiency along with work to understand the complex relationships among agencies and people with competing claims on water” (Zabarenko, 8/9).
“Cuba’s government declared Tuesday that health workers had eradicated a cholera outbreak that infected 417 people and killed three, according to a statement from the country’s Health Ministry,” CNN reports (Oppmann, 8/28). The government said this year’s heavy rains and high temperatures raised the risk of waterborne diarrheal diseases, the Associated Press/Boston.com notes (8/28). The cholera outbreak began in Granma province’s Manzanillo, about 560 miles east of Havana, and the government said other cases “associated” with the outbreak occurred in other areas of the province, the neighboring provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, and in the capital of Havana, according to EFE/Fox News Latino. “Despite the fact that it said the outbreak was ‘concluded,’ the Cuban government is also saying it will maintain its vigilance to avoid ‘the recurrence of new cases,'” the news service writes (8/28).
“Scientists say the cholera outbreak that struck more than 7,000 people in Guinea this year was caused by a more toxic and more contagious generation of the bacteria,” and they “suspect the same strain killed nearly 300 people and struck more than 22,000 others in neighboring Sierra Leone,” VOA News reports. “Through genetic sequencing of the cholera bacteria found in Guinea, epidemiologists working with the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] have identified them as atypical variants of the O1 El Tor strain,” the news service writes. Francois Bellet, a member of UNICEF’s regional office for West and Central Africa, “said this discovery raises the alert level, requiring stronger epidemiological surveillance, preparedness and response to cholera outbreaks in Guinea and throughout the region,” according to VOA (Palus, 12/20). “This type of strain was present in Zimbabwe in 2009, in the Lake Chad Basin in 2009, and is found in Haiti currently,” IRIN notes (12/18).
“Menstrual hygiene issues should be integrated into programs and policies across sectors, including water, sanitation and hygiene, reproductive health, emergency management, and education, notes a new report [.pdf]” by WaterAid, IRIN reports. Taboos and stigma associated with menstruation “leave many girls and women in low- and middle-income countries without access to sanitation facilities and excluded from school and opportunities,” the news service writes. According to IRIN, the report “illustrates good menstrual hygiene-related policies and interventions, and provides modules and toolkits on topics such as sanitary materials; working with communities; providing sanitary facilities in schools and emergency situations; and aiding girls and women in vulnerable, marginalized or special circumstances,” as well as “advocates further research and monitoring on these issues” (12/19).
“We know that in addition to drugs to treat and control [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)], improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) can help prevent re-infection and contribute to lasting health, education and economic improvements,” Anupama Tantri, a senior program officer with the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, writes in the group’s “End the Neglect” blog. “The challenge is figuring out how to reach communities and enable these WASH improvements and NTD control activities,” she continues, highlighting efforts “to identify practical, concrete steps to help these sectors work together and ensure that efforts and resources reach these marginalized, neglected communities.” Tantri concludes, “The solutions are out there. We just need work together to end the neglect” (12/18).
Some Diplomats, U.N. Observers Express ‘Concerns’ Over U.N. Appeal For Haitian Cholera Aid, Al Jazeera Reports
Following U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s announcement on Tuesday of a new initiative appealing for $2.2 billion over 10 years to fight cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Al Jazeera reports “there are concerns by some diplomats and U.N. observers that the funds necessary for the program would not be forthcoming from donors.” As part of the larger appeal covering the island of Hispaniola, in Haiti “[t]he new program dedicates $215 million from donors along with $23.5 million from U.N. funds towards programs in public health, capacity building, public education, and clean water systems,” according to the news service. However, “Haiti will need $500 million over the next two years for its own national cholera plan,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “The funds allocated in the program would therefore cover only one year.”
Global Burden Of Disease Study Finds People Worldwide Living Longer, But With More Illness, Disability
“A sharp decline in deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases like measles and tuberculosis has caused a shift in global mortality patterns over the past 20 years, according to a [study released] on Thursday, with far more of the world’s population now living into old age and dying from diseases mostly associated with rich countries, like cancer and heart disease,” the New York Times reports (Tavernise, 12/13). The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, “published in the Lancet, has taken more than five years and involves 486 authors in 50 countries,” the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog notes (Mead, 12/13). Researchers worldwide “drew conclusions from nearly 100,000 data sources, including surveys, censuses, hospital records and verbal autopsies,” NPR’s “Shots” blog writes (Doucleff, 12/13). The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2010 consists of “[s]even separate reports conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, the Harvard School of Public Health, and elsewhere [that] gauged people’s health in 187 countries and determined that developing countries are looking more like richer Westernized countries in terms of the health problems that pose the biggest burden: high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease,” according to the Boston Globe (Kotz, 12/13).