Though “[c]holera vaccines are not a magic bullet and are not available in adequate numbers” to vaccinate everyone in Haiti, where at least 10 people die each day in an outbreak that began in October 2010, “there are compelling reasons to add vaccinations to the arsenal of public health weapons that has been deployed against cholera in Haiti,” a Washington Post editorial states. Efforts to improve access to clean water, educate the public about cholera transmission and treat those infected are ongoing, “[b]ut those efforts should be supplemented with an ambitious vaccination program starting as soon as practicable,” the editorial writes.
Water and Sanitation
Two million Pakistanis have become ill from malaria, diarrhea, skin diseases or snake bites “since monsoon rains left the southern region under several feet of water, the country’s disaster authority said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “More than 350 people have been killed and over eight million people have been affected this year by floods that officials say are worse in parts of Sindh province than last year,” the news agency reports.
Twenty aid agencies on Wednesday issued an open letter (.pdf) “urg[ing] the international community to change its approach to Somalia ‘and enhance diplomatic engagement with the parties to the conflict, to ensure the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid,'” particularly before the rainy season brings the threat of disease, IRIN reports (9/21).
“Twenty years after the central government collapsed,” Somalia is facing drought, food insecurity and conflict larger in scale than when famine conditions hit the nation in the 1990s, “[a]nd given the world’s limited interest in a major intervention, that is not likely to change anytime soon,” the New York Times reports in a news analysis on the situation.
“The government in Pakistan’s eastern province of Punjab is struggling to control a growing dengue fever epidemic, officials say,” and they “have warned that it threatens to affect other parts of the country,” BBC News reports. “Punjab Health Secretary Jehanzeb Khan said that this year more than 4,000 cases of dengue fever had been reported, a significant increase over previous years,” and at least eight people have died of the disease, according to the news service. Officials “say that the illness is thriving because of poor hygiene, an absence of control measures and the fact that recent heavy monsoon rainfall has lowered temperatures and provided lots of water — ideal conditions for dengue-carrying mosquitoes,” the news service writes (Khan, 9/13).
Several news sources have published opinion pieces regarding the ongoing famine in Somalia and hunger situation in the Horn of Africa, some of which are summarized below:
A VOA News editorial says U.S. support to Haiti since the early days of an outbreak of cholera, which has affected more than 439,600 people since it was first detected almost a year ago, “remains unfailing.” The editorial continues, “To date, the U.S. government has spent more than $75 million on improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, … has established and operated treatment centers and trained Haitian health care workers in preventing, diagnosing and treating cholera,” among other treatment, prevention and monitoring initiatives. “While some humanitarian groups are gradually reducing their operations in Haiti, the U.S. remains focused on giving the Haitian government the aid and tools needed to prevent and treat this potentially deadly disease,” the editorial says, adding, “The medical and public health response has been effective in limiting deaths associated with the disease” (9/12).
A cholera epidemic in West and Central Africa, which is being worsened by heavy rains and flooding, has already caused nearly 40,000 cases this year in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, killing almost 1,200 people in the countries adjacent to the Lake Chad Basin, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), VOA News reports.
Yves Engler, a Canadian writer and author, writes in a post on the Guardian’s “Comment Is Free” blog that local citizens and investigative journalists have alleged that the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah) dumped feces and other waste in holes a few feet from water used for drinking and bathing in the central plateau city of Hinche on August 6 and again 10 miles from Hinche on August 21, as well as cites a report (.pdf) stating that sewage disposal at the U.N. base near Mirebalais 10 months ago caused a devastating cholera outbreak.
U.N. Agencies, Pakistan Government Launch Rapid Needs Assessment, Provide Aid In Flood-Affected Regions
“United Nations humanitarian agencies have begun to assist communities in southern Pakistan that have been pummeled by monsoon rains which have claimed the lives of almost 200 people and destroyed or damaged nearly one million homes in an area still recovering from last year’s catastrophic floods,” the U.N. News Centre reports. The U.N. and the Pakistan government “have begun a rapid needs assessment in Sindh, with shelter, food, water, sanitation, hygiene and health care expected to be the priorities,” the news service writes (9/10).