“The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) is to deliver emergency aid to the south-east of Cuba, where Hurricane Sandy wrought widespread damage,” BBC News reports. “The WFP is also appealing for $20 million (Â£12.5) to help some 425,000 Haitians affected by the storm,” the news service writes, noting, “The WFP is planning to work with the Cuban government to distribute emergency one-month aid in Santiago de Cuba, which is home to 500,000 residents.”
“Floods in Niger have killed 81 people since July, the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] announced Thursday, adding cholera outbreaks have killed a further 81 people,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Thousands of homes, schools, health centers and mosques have been destroyed, along with large quantities of food supplies, according to the authorities,” the news service writes, adding, “Cholera is spreading fast in at least four places, making 3,854 people sick and notably affecting the Tillaberi regions lying by the Niger river and close to the border with Mali, OCHA said.” The news service notes, “In neighboring Burkina Faso, heavy rains have killed 18 people and made 21,000 homeless since June. … Senegal and Nigeria have also been affected by the bad weather” (9/13).
In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Helen Matzger, a program officer in new vaccine delivery at the foundation, writes about outbreaks of cholera in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and other areas, and says creating stockpiles of a recently WHO-approved cholera vaccine could help save lives in the future. “The creation of a cholera stockpile is not a panacea; … Still, the cholera vaccine works. Though many of us may never need it, millions of people living in some of the poorest regions of the world face cholera outbreaks all too often. We have a way to alter the course of an outbreak and save lives. Let’s use it,” she concludes (9/19).
“Heavy rainfall is accelerating the spread of cholera in Sierra Leone and Guinea, where existing health risks such as poor hygiene practices, unsafe water sources and improper waste management are believed to have triggered the disease which has killed 327 people and infected more than 17,400 in both countries since February,” IRIN reports. “Prevalence is high in the congested slum areas in the capitals of Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have few clean toilets, and most people defecate in the open, often dangerously close to open wells, which are the source of water for most residents,” the news service writes (8/31). “Sierra Leone has been hit by its worst outbreak of the water-borne disease in nearly 15 years and cases are expected to peak at around 32,000 in September, the west African nation’s rainiest month, according to the World Health Organization,” Agence France-Presse notes, adding, “Neighboring Guinea has also been hard hit with 104 deaths and some 5,000 cases” (9/3).
“Internet-based news and Twitter feeds were faster than traditional sources at detecting the onset and progression of the cholera epidemic in post-earthquake Haiti …, according to a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH),” an AJTMH press release states. “The study is the first to demonstrate the use of data from ‘informal’ media sources in monitoring an outbreak of a neglected tropical disease in a resource-limited setting, and shows that these sources can yield reliable decision-making data during deadly disease outbreaks almost in real-time, often far earlier than traditional surveillance methods that include surveys of hospitals and health clinics,” the press release adds (1/9).
NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on efforts to determine the source of Haiti’s cholera epidemic, writing, “Most researchers currently believe that United Nations peacekeeping soldiers introduced cholera to Haiti in October of 2010,” but researchers from the University of Maryland report they “have found two very different cholera strains in some of the first Haitians to be struck by the disease.” According to the blog, “One is a so-called 01 serotype with close resemblance to the Nepalese strain, found in about half the patients sampled,” while “[t]he other is a type called non-01/O139 that has never been known to cause an epidemic; it was found in 21 percent of patients.”
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last week “received $9.1 million … from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to fight off cholera, which has affected more than 22,000 people and killed 500 over the past year in the central African country,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “In a news release, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that there has been a spike in cases in recent weeks, with the majority of them occurring in eastern provinces where cholera is endemic,” according to the news service (1/27). UNICEF will receive $4.4 million and the WHO will receive $4.7 million to help fight the spread of the disease, which “has ravaged eight of the country’s 11 provinces since January 2011,” Agence France-Presse writes (1/28).
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on Thursday appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation to discuss rebuilding efforts in Haiti two years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Shah said, “[O]ver the last two years, we’ve seen real signs of hope. A number of things have worked. Partners and the Haitian government and Haitian leaders have done things differently so that today, … more people have access to clean water and safe sanitation in Port-au-Prince than the day before the earthquake,” according to the transcript.
U.N., International Community Should Pledge To Improve Water, Sanitation In Haiti To Mitigate Cholera Epidemic
“The cholera epidemic in Haiti, which began in late 2010, is bad and getting worse, for reasons that are well understood and that the aid community has done far too little to resolve,” a New York Times editorial states, adding that the “Pan American Health Organization has said the disease could strike 200,000 to 250,000 people this year” and “has already killed more than 7,000.” The editorial says the U.N. “bears heavy responsibility for the outbreak,” as it is suspected that U.N. peacekeepers introduced the disease to the island nation, and it notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this month that “cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.”
Zimbabwean Officials Call For Improvements To Water, Sanitation Systems To Prevent Further Typhoid Outbreaks
Zimbabwean health officials responding to typhoid outbreaks in the capital of Harare that have affected more than 2,000 people “have called on the local and central governments to overhaul water and sanitation systems” to stem the spread of the disease, VOA News reports. Portia Manangazira, chief of epidemiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health, “said Zimbabwean and international health authorities responded well to the crisis,” which has raised “fears for many Zimbabweans of the deadly 2008-2009 cholera epidemic which hit tens of thousands and left more than 4,200 people dead,” the news service writes.