India’s minister of development is promoting a campaign on public hygiene, after a UNICEF report found “that India accounts for 58 percent of the world’s population practicing open defecation,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “Jairam Ramesh says the revelation is a source of national shame and a ‘sad commentary’ on society’s failure to address the issue through education and better sanitation,” the AP writes. According to the AP, the Indian government “says it spends $350 million a year to build rural toilets, but some 638 million still rely on fields or quiet corners” (10/2). The public awareness campaign is expected to last one month, according to Xinhua (10/2).
Water and Sanitation
Central African Republic Health Minister Jean-Michel Mandaba on Friday declared a new outbreak of cholera in the south of the country had already killed at least 10 people, Agence France-Presse reports. “Mandaba also urged the country’s ‘bilateral and multilateral partners’ to provide financial and technical aid,” the news agency writes. Health officials two months ago warned of a possible outbreak because of cases in nearby countries, according to the news agency (10/1).
GlobalPost reports how, spurred by an outbreak of the pneumonic plague in 1994, the Indian city of Surat “successfully went from one of the country’s dirtiest cities to one of its cleanest in 18 short months.” The news service writes that “after 54 residents died and some 300,000 fled to escape a possible quarantine, the people who stuck around were willing to get with the program — working to eliminate the tons of garbage and overflowing sewers that had inundated the city with disease-carrying rats.”
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.
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).