“A feeble international response to Pakistan’s second major flooding crisis in two years has left millions of people at serious risk of malnutrition and disease, aid groups warned Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), a network of the 41 largest international charities in the country, called on the international community and Pakistan to take urgent steps with the next monsoon season months away,” the news service adds. “At least 2.5 million people are still without food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care, putting them at serious risk of malnutrition, disease and deepening poverty, said the coalition of international charities,” AFP writes, adding, “Around 43 percent of affected people are severely short of food and malnutrition levels were already well above the emergency threshold in the southern provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan before the floods struck” (Gilani, 2/15).
Water and Sanitation
“At least 16 people have been killed this week when a category four cyclone lashed Madagascar’s eastern shores, rescue authorities said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports, adding, “Some 65 people were injured and about 11,000 people left homeless after Cyclone Giovanna pummeled the country’s eastern seaboard causing power shutdowns in parts of the island’s port city of Tamatave, rescue officials said” (Iloniaina, 2/16). UNICEF “will start distributing medicines and mosquito nets [Thursday] to the parts of eastern Madagascar hardest hit” by the cyclone, the U.N. News Centre writes.
“A typhoid outbreak that began in Harare last year is steadily spreading across Zimbabwe with more than 3,000 cases reported although only one death due to the disease has been reported so far, health officials have said,” ZimOnline reports (Marimudza, 2/29). “We have reported 203 new typhoid cases this week only … So we actually have an outbreak that is raging,” Ministry of Health Epidemiology and Disease Control Director Portia Manangazira told VOA News, according to the news service (Gonda/Chifera, 2/28). Speaking to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare on Tuesday, Manangazira “said the ministry did not have adequate supply of drugs for patients,” NewsDay notes (Chidavaenzi, 2/29).
“Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services, UNICEF warns in ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World,'” released on Tuesday, the agency reports in a press release (2/28). “Children in slums and poor urban communities lack access to clean water, sanitation and education, as services struggle to keep up with fast urban growth, says” the agency’s flagship report, according to AlertNet (Caspani, 2/28). The report “calls attention to the lack of data on conditions in slums, particularly as it relates to children, and it calls for a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding poverty and inequality in cities and increased political will to improve the lives of the most marginalized,” UNICEF writes in an accompanying article (2/28).
World Toilet Day, recognized annually on November 19, “aims to break the taboo around loos and basic hygiene,” the Guardian reports. The newspaper continues, “Some 57 countries are seriously off-track to meet the target within Millennium Development Goal [MDG] seven to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation; around 2.5 billion people lack access to a clean toilet” (11/19). “The majority of those without access to a toilet live in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia, with over half of people in Asia not having proper sanitation, according to the U.K.-based charity, WaterAid,” CNN writes (Davey-Attlee, 11/19). “Improving these figures, and achieving the [MDG] of halving the number of people without basic sanitation by 2015, needs a change of mindset and strong political will, not financial resources, campaigners say,” Inter Press Service reports. The article examines how improving sanitation would help progress on other MDG goals, including reducing child mortality (Agazzi, 11/18).
The focus of the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases: Translating the London Declaration into Action conference, which took place November 16-18 in Washington, D.C., was “how we can work together to put the right systems in place and implement the change needed” to control or eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020, Simon Bush, director of NTDs at Sightsavers, writes in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Impact” blog. Sponsored by the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the conference brought together pharmaceutical company executives, non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, academics, government officials, and representatives of the World Bank, WHO and other groups, Bush says.
“An epidemic of dengue fever in India is fostering a growing sense of alarm even as government officials here have publicly refused to acknowledge the scope of a problem that experts say is threatening hundreds of millions of people, not just in India but around the world,” the New York Times reports. Dengue is endemic in half of the world’s countries and continuing to spread, experts say, according to the newspaper. In India’s capital, New Delhi, “where areas of standing water contribute to the epidemic’s growth, hospitals are overrun and feverish patients are sharing beds and languishing in hallways,” the newspaper writes. With officials citing 30,002 cases of dengue in India through October, “a 59 percent jump from the 18,860 recorded for all of 2011,” several experts say the true number of infections in the country is in the tens of millions, the New York Times notes.
Since its arrival in Haiti two years ago, “cholera has sickened more than 600,000 people and killed more than 7,500,” and “[t]his year the epidemic is on track to be among the world’s worst again, with nearly 77,000 cases and 550 deaths, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health,” Ralph Ternier and Cate Oswald of Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health in Haiti write in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Despite the decrease in cases from 2011, every new case represents an unnecessary and preventable infection and an even further potential of completely preventable and unnecessary death in hardest-to-reach areas,” they state. Though a “multi-pronged approach” to treating and preventing cholera has significantly decreased the number of cases, “[t]he sad reality is that … we know that cholera is not going away, [yet] emergency funding for cholera is,” they write.
“Sri Lanka is making progress in the battle against mosquito-borne dengue fever, say health officials,” IRIN reports. According to the health ministry, 26,722 dengue cases were reported in 2011, down from 34,105 cases in 2010, and the number of dengue-related deaths dropped from 246 to 172, IRIN notes. Officials credit the establishment in May 2010 of an “anti-dengue Presidential Task Force — involving the ministries of health, defense, the environment, education, and local government, and headed by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa” — for the drop in cases, IRIN writes. The agencies worked together to launch widespread education campaigns, “clea[n] up areas suspected of being mosquito breeding grounds,” and impose fines for illegal dumping, according to the news agency (12/29).
When sanitation systems are available and used, the odds of contracting one of a group of diseases, known as soil-transmitted helminths (STH), is cut in half, according to a systemic review and meta-analysis published this week in PLoS Medicine, Examiner.com reports (Herriman, 1/25). “One billion of the world’s people experience a diminished ability to work, learn, and thrive as a result of infection by these parasites — roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm. The resulting losses in quality of life and productivity can trap people in a cycle of poverty and stigma and diminish their ability to care for themselves and their families,” the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog writes.