With more than one billion people lacking access to clean and safe water, and waterborne diseases causing 7,000 child deaths every day worldwide, “[i]t’s more important than ever that we be willing to look at old problems and find innovative ways to solve them. The issues of water access, quantity and quality need to be addressed at the same time,” Kevin McGovern and Quincy Jones, chair and honorary chair, respectively, of The Water Initiative (TWI), write in a Huffington Post opinion piece.
Water and Sanitation
The VOA News audio program “Explorations” on Tuesday discussed international humanitarian aid in the Horn of Africa. The program features interviews with Kurt Tjossem, the International Rescue Committee’s regional director for the Horn of Africa and East Africa; Shannon Scribner, Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy manager; and Nancy Lindborg, USAID’s assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.
“Countries around the world marked the world’s population reaching seven billion Monday with lavish ceremonies for newborn infants symbolizing the milestone and warnings that there may be too many humans for the planet’s resources,” the Associated Press/MSNBC.com reports (10/31). “With the world’s population more than doubling over the last half century, basics like food and water are under more strain than ever, say experts, and providing for an additional two to three billion people in the next 50 years is a serious worry,” AlertNet/Reuters writes, adding that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says food production will have to increase by 70 percent to keep pace. “But climate change may be the greatest impediment to meeting this target, say experts,” the news agency notes (Kumar/Bhalla, 10/31).
“Seasonal rains cause massive damage and disease throughout Nigeria each year, and this year’s onslaught comes as international experts warn West Africa is suffering from its worst cholera outbreaks in years,” the Associated Press/ABC News reports. According to UNICEF, Nigeria “had recorded more than 21,000 cholera cases this year by the end of September” and “[a]t least 694 people have died from the disease,” the news agency writes. Twenty-five of Nigeria’s 36 states have reported cholera cases, with most coinciding with local flooding, the AP notes, adding that “almost half of Nigeria’s 150 million people lack access to clean water and proper sanitation, according to the World Health Organization” (Gambrell, 10/26).
Global Post Interviews Former U.N. General Assembly President On Role Of Water, Sanitation In Family Planning
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog interviewed Ambassador Jan Eliasson, former president of the U.N. General Assembly and Sweden’s former minister for foreign affairs, on how water and sanitation play a part in family planning, as the world’s population approaches seven billion. Eliasson discusses his interest in women’s reproductive health issues, strategies for increasing attention on these issues, and difficulties faced by policymakers on the issues surrounding family planning, among other topics. “We don’t realize when you look at the issues of child mortality, women’s health, or education, all the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) are affected by water and sanitation. I see a real need for a horizontal approach to health. Population issues and family planning are an integrated part of solving that problem,” he said (Donnelly, 10/26).
“Western and central Africa are facing one of the biggest cholera epidemics in their history, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said last month, in reporting that more than 85,000 cases of cholera have been registered since the beginning of the year, with nearly 2,500 deaths,” according to Le Monde/Guardian. The newspaper writes, “UNICEF has identified three main cholera epidemic outbreaks in the Lake Chad basin, the West Congo basin and Lake Tanganyika,” and “[f]ive countries — Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (RDC) and Chad — account for 90 percent of the reported cases and fatalities.”
The WHO on Saturday said hundreds of thousands of flood victims in Thailand are at risk of water-borne diseases and infections, though no major outbreaks have been reported, Agence France-Presse reports. “The spread of communicable diseases such as diarrhea, respiratory illness and conjunctivitis among displaced flood victims in shelters was a key concern, the country’s WHO representative Maureen Birmingham told AFP,” adding, “Flood-affected people also faced an increased risk of skin fungal infections and leptospirosis, a bacterial infection spread through contaminated water,” according to the news service (10/23).
Water Shortages Lead To Cholera Threat In Harare, Government Says Measures In Place To Contain Outbreak
Radio VOP reports on water shortages in the high-density suburbs of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, writing that some “have gone for a week without water raising fears of a cholera outbreak and bringing back fresh memories of the 4,000 people across the country killed in a cholera disaster in 2008” (10/21). But Health and Child Welfare Ministry officials in Zimbabwe “say the government has successfully curbed over 1,000 cases of cholera recorded during the first half of this year, while indicating that measures have been put in place to contain another outbreak of the disease,” the Zimbabwean reports.
Working in conjunction with the Haitian Ministry of Health and the Haitian aid group GHESKIO, Boston-based Partners In Health (PIH) will begin an immunization campaign in January aimed at providing two doses of the oral cholera vaccine Shanchol “to 100,000 Haitians living in two vulnerable communities: a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, where potable water and latrines are luxuries, and to an isolated rural village in the lower Artibonite Valley region,” the Miami Herald reports.
Paul Farmer, a founder of Partners in Health (PIH) and U.N. deputy special envoy to Haiti, in an interview with the Associated Press/Washington Post “said cholera has sickened more than 450,000 people in a nation of 10 million, or nearly five percent of the population, and killed more than 6,000,” giving the Caribbean nation “the highest rate of cholera in the world a mere year after the disease first arrived” (10/18).