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.”
Water and Sanitation
In this Guardian analysis, journalist and author Rose George describes a recent trip to Liberia with the organization WaterAid, during which she discussed sanitation with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and visited two towns with the aim of learning more about their access to clean water and sanitation. George describes the country’s history, how some non-governmental organizations are working to improve sanitation in the country, and the challenges to doing so. She quotes Sirleaf as saying, “People say they want health clinics, … but they don’t ask for sanitation. They say their children get malaria or dysentery, but they don’t ask for sanitation. We have to bring to their consciousness that sanitation is linked to health” (2/3).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last week “received $9.1 million … from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to fight off cholera, which has affected more than 22,000 people and killed 500 over the past year in the central African country,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “In a news release, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that there has been a spike in cases in recent weeks, with the majority of them occurring in eastern provinces where cholera is endemic,” according to the news service (1/27). UNICEF will receive $4.4 million and the WHO will receive $4.7 million to help fight the spread of the disease, which “has ravaged eight of the country’s 11 provinces since January 2011,” Agence France-Presse writes (1/28).
“Doctors in Zimbabwe said more than 800 cases of typhoid have been reported in Harare, the capital, in an outbreak of the bacterial disease,” GlobalPost reports (Conway-Smith, 1/29). “Health services director Dr. Prosper Chonzi raised fears of a cholera outbreak given the health conditions that gave birth to typhoid,” Xinhua writes (1/28). Chonzi “said … a clean-up and awareness campaign is underway,” according to GlobalPost (1/29).
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.
The U.S. Army news service reports on a five-day Medical Civil Action Program, or MEDCAP, in Tanzania, during which “Tanzanian medical providers working in partnership with U.S. service members from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa provided medical care to more than 2,100 Tanzanian women and children.” According to the news service, “The program supported the Tanzanian Health Initiative, a program that seeks to provide a comprehensive approach to health for the Tanzanian people and parallels the U.S. government’s Global Health Initiative.”
“Cote d’Ivoire remains in great need of humanitarian assistance nine months after the end of the bloody post-election violence that displaced tens of thousands of people, a senior United Nations relief official said today, urging donors to continue their generosity to the West African country throughout this year,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Considerable needs remain in several areas such as protection of civilians, restoration of means of livelihood, shelter, access to basic services and voluntary return and reintegration of displaced persons and refugees,” Catherine Bragg, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said following a three-day visit to the nation, according to the news service (1/18).
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on Thursday appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation to discuss rebuilding efforts in Haiti two years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Shah said, “[O]ver the last two years, we’ve seen real signs of hope. A number of things have worked. Partners and the Haitian government and Haitian leaders have done things differently so that today, … more people have access to clean water and safe sanitation in Port-au-Prince than the day before the earthquake,” according to the transcript.
International Health Groups Ally To Fight Cholera In Haiti; Officials Emphasize Need For Sanitation Infrastructure
“Unless steps are taken to eliminate cholera from Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, the disease will likely resurge and could even spread to other parts of the Caribbean, international health officials said Wednesday,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 1/11). Officials from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and the CDC “said they would join with the Haitian and Dominican governments to develop a plan to eradicate cholera from the island the two countries share by extending clean water and sanitation to stricken areas,” Reuters writes, adding, “The effort faces a daunting financial challenge if it is to meet a goal of reaching at least two-thirds of the Haitian population by 2015, a task that could cost $1.1 billion” (Morgan, 1/12).
“A mentally ill man who bathed in and drank from a contaminated river most likely was the first person to be infected” with cholera in the outbreak that began in Haiti in October 2010, researchers from Partners in Health said in a study published Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/9). “‘This patient’s case is the first in the community’s collective memory to have had symptoms that are recognizable, in retrospect, to be those of cholera,’ according to the study,” CNN’s “The Chart” notes, adding, “There is no lab method to confirm that this was the first patient to start the epidemic, wrote the authors” (Park, 1/9).