“A UNICEF official says a cholera outbreak in Congo has killed 279 people and infected more than 4,000 others in the last four months,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (7/27). According to the VOA’s “Breaking News” blog, “[a] cholera outbreak has been declared in four provinces with northeastern Orientale province showing the most cases.” The WHO last week expressed concern that the disease could spread along the Congo River, according to the blog (7/27).
Water and Sanitation
One year after the U.N. General Assembly “adopted a resolution declaring that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right,” top U.N. officials on Wednesday “stressed the need to realize the human right to water and sanitation, stating that it is critical not only to a life of dignity but also to achieving progress in the areas such as poverty reduction, boosting child health and combating diseases,” the U.N. News Centre reports (7/27). Nearly 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water, and more than one million children die each year because of diseases such as cholera that are transmitted by contaminated water, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C notes (Krafczyk, 7/27).
According to the Haitian government, more than 5,800 people have died of cholera since the epidemic began in October, and health care workers have seen an increase in cases “[w]ith the rainy season now in progress,” the Los Angeles Times reports (Gaestel, 7/24).
Rwanda “is one of only four countries in Africa which look set to achieve Millennium Development Goal 7 to ensure environmental sustainability, which includes halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation,” Inter Press Service reports in an article examining hygiene and sanitation in the country. The other three countries are Mozambique, Ghana and Sierra Leone, the news service notes.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Tuesday that it plans to invest millions of dollars in projects aimed at improving sanitation in the developing world, the Guardian reports (Ford, 7/19).
Researchers at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, this week described a device that collects water quality data to “chec[k] supplies in real-time, alerting users to possible infections,” and “upload[s] the data, allowing scientists to monitor the location and movement of outbreaks,” BBC News reports. The researchers said the device, called the Water Canary, “could prove invaluable for governments around the world keen to contain disease and environmental disasters,” according to the news service (Wakefield, 7/13).
USAID and the National Science Foundation (NSF) on Thursday launched the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) initiative to “provide grants to developing world partners of NSF U.S. grantees,” with the goal of supporting “applied research â€“ science in support of development â€“ in areas of global concern such as climate change, biodiversity, water issues, agriculture, seismic hazards and deforestation,” SciDev.Net reports (Tatalovic, 7/8).
Significant progress is being made toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline, but the poorest countries are not progressing as quickly and more must be done to improve health and development outcomes in those nations, according to this year’s MDG report (.pdf), VOA News reports. “Despite the global economic downturn and the food and energy crises, we are on track to meet the MDG targets for poverty-reduction,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the report on Thursday in Geneva (Schlein, 7/7).
“Evidence ‘strongly suggests’ that a United Nations peacekeeping mission brought a cholera strain to Haiti that has killed thousands of people,” according to a study conducted by a team of epidemiologists and physicians and published in the July issue of the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Associated Press reports. The Haitian government has recorded more than 363,000 cases of cholera more than 5,500 deaths since the outbreak began in October.
More than 18,000 cases of cholera have been recorded in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince since the beginning of May, an increase that may be related to “the beginning of the rainy season and the flooding that hit the capital,” according to Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesperson, Agence France-Presse reports.