“Sierra Leone’s health ministry said Thursday that deaths from a cholera outbreak had reached 220, affecting over 12,000 people in the west African nation, which is struggling to curb the disease,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘Some 12,140 people are affected nationwide in 10 of 12 districts,’ the health ministry’s director of disease prevention and control, Amara Jambai, told journalists, saying the figure included cases recorded up to Wednesday,” the news service writes (8/23). “Early rains together with increasing overcrowding in cities such as the Sierra Leonian capital Freetown have pushed the number of reported cases … well past the previous record of 10,000 in 1994,” Reuters notes.
Water and Sanitation
“Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s north-eastern Orientale Province are urging the population to desist from activities that could put them at risk of contracting the Ebola virus, including contact with infected individuals and the consumption of bushmeat,” IRIN reports. “‘Ebola virus is an animal disease … people in some parts of our country rely on bushmeat for their livelihood … and don’t care to avoid eating meat they’ve got from dead animals that they often find in the bush,’ said Mondoge Vitale, head of disease control at WHO’s Kinshasa office,” according to the news service. “The health ministry has established national- and district-level taskforces and is working with partners, including the [non-governmental organization] Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO,” the news service notes, adding, “At least 10 people in the province had died from suspected Ebola by 20 August, according to the [WHO],the news service writes. (8/23).
Noting that several organizations recently have closed or consolidated their cholera treatment centers in Haiti, Jason Hayes with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting writes in an opinion analysis in the Huffington Post Blog, “In order to stop cholera, a water-borne illness, you need to change the ways people interact with water. It is no easy task.” Despite massive education campaigns to distribute information on how to prevent cholera, including hand washing and water treatment, and reports showing that “Haitians hungrily internalized the information,” “there is often an appalling gap between knowledge and action,” and the number of cases began to rise again in the early summer of 2011.
“The first case of cholera has emerged among thousands of people in an impromptu refugee camp in eastern Congo who fled fighting between a new rebel group and government forces backed by U.N. peacekeepers,” according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (Muhumuza, 8/3). The first case was detected on Friday, and since then at least nine people have died of the disease, MSF said, according to Al Jazeera (8/5).
World Leaders, Scientists Gather In Stockholm For World Water Week; Researchers Warn Overconsumption Draining World's Water Supply
Some 2,500 officials, policymakers and scientists will gather this week at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) for the largest annual meeting on water development issues as the international community recognizes World Water Week, observed August 26-31, VOA News reports. According to the news service, this year’s theme is “water and food security” (DeCapua, 8/24). “Global leaders assembled … at the opening session of the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm called for substantial increases in public and private sector investment to reduce losses of food in the supply chain, enhance water efficiency in agriculture and curb consumer waste,” according to an SIWI press release (8/27).
“Rain-battered Haiti is at risk of a fresh cholera outbreak” after “[t]ropical storm Isaac ripped through the impoverished Caribbean island [Saturday],” children’s charity Plan International warns, according to AlertNet (8/26). “The 400,000 people living in camps in the capital Port-au-Prince, such as Jean Marie Vincent, as well as those living in towns to the south of the island, including Les Cayes and Jacmel are among those at risk, following heavy rains and flooding,” Oxfam writes in a press release (Brinicombe, 8/26). “With a reported total of 10 deaths for the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by [Haiti and the Dominican Republic], the scale of devastation was less than many people had feared,” but “the capital and countryside of disaster-prone Haiti did suffer sporadic flooding, fallen poles and scores of toppled tents that housed people who lost their homes in the massive 2010 earthquake,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “Across Haiti, the number of people evacuated due to flooding rose over the weekend,” the news service notes, adding, “The World Food Program had distributed two days of food to 8,300 of the people who had left their houses for 18 camps” (Blanco, 8/26). “Aid groups have prepared clean water and hygiene kits to help prevent the spread of cholera, which Haiti has struggled to control since the earthquake,” according to VOA News (8/25).
“The U.K. government has activated a Â£2 million [$3.16 million] emergency plan to help tackle a cholera epidemic sweeping through Sierra Leone,” the Press Association reports, adding, “The Department for International Development (DfID) says it is using a network that includes private businesses and specialist aid organizations to deliver emergency medical, water and sanitation assistance to affected people in the west African state” (8/25). “It is the first time [DfID] has activated its Rapid Response Facility,” the Guardian notes, adding, “The network was established in March and allows the U.K. government ‘to commit to rapid humanitarian funding’ within 72 hours in response to disasters and rapidly escalating humanitarian emergencies,” (Adetunji, 8/25).
“In April, Partners In Health [PIH] responded to Haiti’s cholera epidemic by providing oral vaccinations to 45,000 people living in the country’s Artibonite region — specifically, to two rice-farming communities hit hard by cholera,” Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser at PIH, reports in an article on the organization’s webpage. “In partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health, hundreds of community health workers fanned out across the rural, flood-prone area, delivering two doses to each person by the end of May,” she writes, and discusses the impact of the campaign (8/1).
NGOs Call For Full Implementation Of Human Right To Water, Sanitation In Letter To U.N. Member States
At the end of last month, the international community commemorated the second anniversary of a July 2010 U.N. General Assembly resolution declaring water and sanitation a basic human right, but “there was hardly any political rejoicing either inside or outside the U.N.,” Inter Press Service/Guardian reports. “In March, [UNICEF] and the [WHO] released a joint report claiming that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water (spelled out under Goal 7 on environmental sustainability) had been reached well in advance of the 2015 deadline,” the news service writes. Though the MDG goal was reached, “[a] cautious UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake warned that victory could not yet be declared since at least 11 percent of the world’s population — roughly 783 million people — are still without access to safe drinking water, and billions are without sanitation facilities,” the news service notes.
In this post in Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) “Global Health Impact” blog, Abdul Qawi Qadiri, WASH coordinator for Baghlan Province in Afghanistan, writes about how a community-led program in the village of Baghalak has helped to reduce the incidence of infectious illnesses, particularly diarrheal diseases. The USAID-funded program, Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS), is a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) training aimed at increasing the use of latrines and other hygienic practices, Qadiri notes (8/7).