UNICEF and the WHO “are warning of an alarming upsurge in cholera across West Africa’s Sahel region, the area at the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert running from Mauritania to Chad,” VOA News reports (Schlein, 7/10). “So far in 2012, cholera has killed nearly 700 people in West and Central Africa and more than 29,000 cases were reported,” according to a UNICEF press release (7/10). “Both UNICEF and WHO say they are critically short of funds to do what is needed to contain the outbreak,” but “[t]hey say action must be taken now before the number of cholera cases explodes,” VOA writes (7/10). IRIN examines efforts to curb the spread of cholera in Guinea, with the administration of a vaccine, and Sierra Leone (7/10).
Water and Sanitation
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent the Water for the World Act (S 641) to the Senate for a floor vote, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs is set to vote on a companion bill, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2012 (HR 3658), PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog notes, adding that “a coalition of CEOs of NGOs have published an open letter [.pdf] encouraging the House Foreign Affairs Committee to allow the bill to be voted upon in the House floor” (6/28). The letter states, “HR 3658, like its companion S 641, has strong bipartisan support, does not seek new funds, and builds on decades of successful USâ€led programs to make even better use of existing resources. This is the year to ensure that the bill becomes law,” and continues, “Because it builds on the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, the Water for the World Act of 2012 is a costâ€free approach to benefiting families, communities, and even the global economy.” The letter concludes by asking members of Congress to co-sponsor the House bill and urge the House committee to pass it (6/20).
In this post in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, Helen Hamilton, policy adviser for neglected tropical diseases at Sightsavers, reflects on the Rio+20 conference, “which took place last week in Brazil to discuss how the world can develop more sustainably.” She writes, “Following three long days of discussions on water, climate change and other sustainable development topics to advocate for this group of debilitating diseases, I left feeling there were some hopeful signs.” She discusses the final outcome document from the conference, titled “The Future We Want,” (.pdf) and writes that “with 2.5 billion people not having access to adequate sanitation it was the evolution from just discussing the right to access water to discussing water AND sanitation that was so refreshing” (6/28).
“In an exciting move for the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) community, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2011 (S 641), bringing the bill one step closer to becoming a law,” PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog reports (Petoskey, 6/20). “The bill, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), has broad bipartisan support in the Senate,” the ONE Blog notes, adding, “If enacted, the bill would provide better access to clean water and sanitation to the world’s poorest communities through an efficient and cost effective strategy” (Brennan, 6/20). “The House [HR 3658] and Senate versions of the legislation have some differences, but ultimately, both seek to provide safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for millions of people, largely by improving upon the 2005 Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act and making the way that the United States provides foreign aid on water and WASH projects more efficient,” advocate Elizabeth Shope writes in the Natural Resource Defense Council’s “Switchboard” blog. She asks representatives to “call on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to move the bill” (6/20).
The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, on Thursday launched the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., during a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces addressing the effort.
“Bangladesh, a country crisscrossed with rivers and canals, has one of the highest drowning rates in the world,” the Guardian reports. “More than 17,000 Bangladeshi children drown every year — nearly 50 a day, according to the Bangladesh health and injury survey [.pdf], conducted in 2003,” the news service writes. “A report by UNICEF and the Alliance for Safe Children (Tasc) has found that the cause of death in roughly one in four children who die between one and 10 years of age is drowning,” making “drowning the leading killer of children in Bangladesh, overtaking diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia,” the Guardian adds.
“As the world’s worst outbreak of cholera continues to ravage Haiti, international donors have averted their gaze,” a Washington Post editorial writes. The editorial notes that a “pilot project to vaccinate Haitians against the disease … reached only one percent of the population, with no immediate prospect of expansion,” and “[o]f the 100 or so cholera treatment centers that sprang up around the country after the disease was detected 19 months ago, fewer than a third remain.” The solution to the epidemic is “equally well known and costly,” the editorial states, adding, “Haiti needs modern water and sanitation infrastructure, an undertaking that might cost $1 billion. But while donors tend to respond generously to emergencies, such as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in early 2010, they lose interest in long-term fixes of the sort that would deal decisively with cholera.”
U.N. Official Calls For More Leadership, Funding, Comprehensive Plan To Address Potential Humanitarian Crisis In Sahel
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday “called for strong leadership and a comprehensive response plan, as well as donor support, for the food crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, warning that hunger could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/24). Amos “met with President Macky Sall in Senegal and Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso on a four-day trip to west Africa to examine the impact of the food crisis,” Agence France-Presse writes. “We can do more to avoid the crisis from becoming a catastrophe in the region but to save more lives we need strong leadership … and continued generosity from the regional and humanitarian community,” she said, the news agency notes (5/24). The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Amos heads, said that in addition to food aid, “priorities for those in need of assistance include health care and water and sanitation services,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/24).
“U.N. Development Goals for better drinking water have already been reached, but a closer look shows that the measures fail to truly account for the lack of access to safe water,” Scientific American reports in a feature story. “[J]ust because water is pouring out of a spigot does not mean that it is safe to drink,” the article states, adding, “In poorer areas, where infrastructure and sanitation are often much worse, even sources of water that have been ‘improved’ are frequently at risk for contamination by human and animal feces, according to recent analyses.” The magazine details a number of studies on the issue and concludes, “[W]hether there are 800 million or 1.8 billion people who lack safe water, the scourge of preventable deadly diarrheal and other waterborne diseases will continue to plague too many” (Harmon, 5/21).