“Advocates for universal access to and use of basic personal sanitation hope their efforts will get a big boost in August, when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation present several hygienic innovations developed through its Reinventing the Toilet Challenge,” Scientific American reports in a feature article. “The foundation’s involvement could do for sanitation what it has accomplished in the battle to eradicate malaria — raise the visibility of a fundamental health care crisis and encourage new efforts to end it,” the magazine writes.
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 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).
“In a study of 193 countries to be released Thursday, Canadian-based researchers say they’ve been able to quantify — for the first time — how safe water and public sanitation efforts affect health when factoring out other variables such as a nation’s wealth, fertility or location,” USA Today’s “Your Life” reports (Koch, 2/15). Dividing the countries into four quartiles, researchers at the United Nations University and McMaster University “found that countries ranked in the bottom 25 percent in terms of safe water had about 4.7 more deaths per 1,000 children under five years old compared to countries in the top 25 percent tier” and “when judged on access to adequate sanitation, countries ranked in the bottom 25 percent tier had about 6.6 more deaths per 1,000 children under five years old compared to countries in the top 25 percent tier,” a United Nations University press release states (2/14).
Zimbabwean Officials Call For Improvements To Water, Sanitation Systems To Prevent Further Typhoid Outbreaks
Zimbabwean health officials responding to typhoid outbreaks in the capital of Harare that have affected more than 2,000 people “have called on the local and central governments to overhaul water and sanitation systems” to stem the spread of the disease, VOA News reports. Portia Manangazira, chief of epidemiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health, “said Zimbabwean and international health authorities responded well to the crisis,” which has raised “fears for many Zimbabweans of the deadly 2008-2009 cholera epidemic which hit tens of thousands and left more than 4,200 people dead,” the news service writes.
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Carlos dos Reis, foreign service national environmental health officer for Timor-Leste, reports on a trip to the country’s remote district of Oecusse with U.S. Ambassador Judith Fergin and USAID/Timor-Leste Mission Director Rick Scott to “inaugurate the new clean water supply system built with the support of USAID.” He writes, “Having the chance to see the completed water supply system and witness the benefits that people get from having access to clean water, I’m beginning to believe that a seemingly impossible thing can become possible when people work together,” and adds, “I believe that the cooperation between USAID and Oecusse District SAS has really improved the lives of many residents in [the town of] Bobometo by giving them access to clean water and improved sanitation and hygiene” (2/13).
In this post in the ONE blog, Brooks Keene, policy adviser for CARE’s water team, “makes the argument that foreign aid should benefit the poor first and foremost,” noting, “As we approach World Water Day on March 22, CARE, [the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)] and WaterAid have published a report card [.pdf] on how well” the Water for the Poor Act, passed by Congress in 2005, “has been implemented seven years down the line.” She writes, “In the absence of a strategy, USAID has gone ahead with water, sanitation and hygiene programs, but much of the effort and dollars have not gone to benefit the poor.” She concludes by recommending several steps USAID could take “to spur concerted targeting” (2/9).
Applauding the signing of the so-called “London Declaration on NTDs” by a consortium of public and private partners last week, Ned Breslin, CEO of Water For People, writes in this Huffington Post “Impact” opinion piece, “I am saddened by the emphasis on vaccines and medicines as the seemingly only vehicles to eradicate NTDs by London Declaration signatories. And I wonder where water, sanitation and hygiene are in this mix, as by all accounts it is not anywhere to be seen in the NTD eradication initiative.”
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.”
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).