“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.
Water and Sanitation
“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.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and community-led total sanitation (CLTS) programs are coming under increased academic scrutiny, Darren Saywell, the WASH/CLTS technical director at Plan International USA and vice-chair to the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) initiative, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “I personally see this trend as positive. It’s long overdue; and in its absence the WASH sector has lost ground to competing interests which have understood that the way to a donor or politician’s heart and head is through compelling evidence, simply told.” He outlines several steps international non-governmental organizations can take to improve data and cooperation to reach their output goals (11/19).
“Across the world, one in three women risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet,” Ann Jenkin, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Member of Parliament Annette Brooke, and Glenys Kinnock, Baronness Kinnock of Holyhead, write in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Lifestyle” blog. “Facing each day without access to this basic necessity is not just an inconvenience; it impacts on all aspects of life, and it is women and girls who suffer the most,” they continue.
“Most people think malnutrition is all about not having enough food or enough of the right kind of food to eat,” but while “[t]his is a big part of the story … there are many other links in the chain,” Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies, writes in a BBC Magazine opinion piece. “So dealing with malnutrition means fixing all the links in the chain — food, health, sanitation, water and care,” he states. “We know that handwashing with soap helps prevent diarrhea. We know that fortifying flour and salt with key vitamins and minerals bolsters nutrient intake for those with low quality diets. We know that deworming improves nutrient absorption by the gut,” he continues.