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Also In Global Health News: Tropical Storm Damage In Central America; Global Health Corps; Hunger In S. Sudan; Tobacco Use In China; Improving Water Conditions In Asia

Tropical Storm Agatha Hits Central America

Tropical storm Agatha pounded Central America over the weekend, bringing heavy rain that killed at least 179 people, mostly in Guatemala, the New York Times reports. The search for survivors continues as rescue workers dig through the thousands of homes and buildings that collapsed. “We need water, diapers, food and cots, but what we need most is food; there is nothing,” Elbia Coraro, the sanitation chief for Guatemala’s national disaster agency, said. The storm created a gaping sinkhole the size of a three-story building in the nation’s capital (Schmidt, 6/1). According to Agence France-Presse, the United States has pledged $112,000 to Guatemala and sent relief supplies on Tuesday (Calderon, 6/1).

Bush Daughter Discusses Global Health Corps With CNN

Global Health Corps co-founder and former first daughter Barbara Bush discusses with CNN how the Corps aims to help build the next generation of global health leaders. According to Bush, the Corps has just chosen 22 fellows under the age of 30 to work for a year with partners around the world, including the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative and Partners In Health. CNN reports that there are “plans to expand to 40 fellows next year and 500 fellows five years from now.” Bush, who “credits her parents for both inspiring her to care about health issues and helping her set up Global Health Corps,” said the organization was born from a 2003 trip to five African countries she took as PEPFAR was being launched by her father former President George W. Bush (6/1).

PBS’ NewsHour Reports On Tobacco Use, Obesity In China

As part of a three-part series, PBS’ NewsHour explores the health issues facing China. Summaries of the first two reports appear below.

Marking World No Tobacco Day Monday, PBS’ NewsHour examines tobacco use in China. “No nation on Earth has more smokers than China – 350 million people here light up regularly, meaning China has more smokers than the United States has people,” the piece notes. “While warnings of dire health risks have pushed smoking rates down across the globe, tobacco consumption in China has quadrupled since the 1970s.” The piece looks at the ties between the Chinese government and tobacco industry and how such relationships have complicated the government’s efforts to drive down tobacco use in the country. The segment includes interviews with China’s Center for Disease Control, the directors of the National Office of Tobacco Control and the Chinese wing of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, as well as tobacco farmers and patients on the ground (Suarez, 5/31).

A second PBS’ NewsHour report on China examines the country’s growing obesity epidemic. “In the course of just a few decades, China has moved from being a society with a fear of periodic famine to one where the rapidly rising rate of obesity is a serious public health threat,” the news service writes, pointing to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine which found an estimated 19 million people living in China are obese. The segment examines several factors contributing to the rise of obesity, particularly among Chinese youth, and includes interviews with local health professionals who are working to educate parents and children about healthy eating (Suarez, 6/1).

Agricultural Investment Needed To Ease Hunger In South Sudan, U.N. Official Says

“Southern Sudan should invest in agriculture to feed its people and help ease a humanitarian crisis gripping the oil-rich region, the top United Nations humanitarian official said,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. U.N. Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said several factors, including poor rains and population displacements have created a “toxic mix” in the already poor region (Mazen/Boswell, 5/28). According to Agence France-Presse, Holmes “on Sunday wrapped up a four-day mission to impoverished and war-torn southern and western Sudan aimed at addressing chronic food shortages there” (5/30). “We are asking for $530 million for south Sudan this year and we are just over 20 percent funded so clearly there is a serious problem there,” Holmes said during his trip, Reuters reports (McDoom, 5/28). 

In related news, the Globe and Mail reports on the “imminent birth of a new nation in South Sudan.” According to the newspaper, the region is “one of the poorest and hungriest places in the world, racked by tribal violence, with rates of child malnutrition and maternal mortality that rank among the worst on the planet” (York, 5/31).

Study Suggests Ways To Improve Water Conditions In Parts Of Asia Hit By Arsenic In Groundwater

“Arsenic is so common in groundwater in Bangladesh, Nepal, western India, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam – all heavily populated countries in the flood plains draining the Himalayas – that their drinking water has been called ‘the largest poisoning of a population in history. … But a recent study in Science magazine suggests simple well-drilling techniques that could lower the risk,’” the New York Times reports. The newspaper details the source of arsenic before writing, researchers “suggest that wells for drinking water should be drilled in deep orange sands and connected to low-pressure hand pumps, while wells connected to high-pressure pumps for crop irrigation should be kept out of those deep aquifers so they do not empty them of safe water, which would cause arsenic-laden water to migrate downward into them” (McNeil, 5/31).