World Toilet Day, recognized annually on November 19, “aims to break the taboo around loos and basic hygiene,” the Guardian reports. The newspaper continues, “Some 57 countries are seriously off-track to meet the target within Millennium Development Goal [MDG] seven to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation; around 2.5 billion people lack access to a clean toilet” (11/19). “The majority of those without access to a toilet live in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia, with over half of people in Asia not having proper sanitation, according to the U.K.-based charity, WaterAid,” CNN writes (Davey-Attlee, 11/19). “Improving these figures, and achieving the [MDG] of halving the number of people without basic sanitation by 2015, needs a change of mindset and strong political will, not financial resources, campaigners say,” Inter Press Service reports. The article examines how improving sanitation would help progress on other MDG goals, including reducing child mortality (Agazzi, 11/18).
Water and Sanitation
Inter Press Service reports on World Toilet Day, observed on November 19, noting, “Currently, over 800 million people have no access to safe drinking water and over 2.5 billion people are living without adequate sanitation.” “While most developing nations have made limited progress in providing clean water, the targets for sanitation have remained virtually unreachable,” leaving “a lingering question in the minds of activists: how best can water and sanitation be given high priority in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the U.N.’s post-2015 economic agenda?” the news service writes. “A new goal on universal access to basic water and sanitation services as a fundamental human right, with a target date for achieving universal access to basic water and sanitation services by 2030 would be a good start,” Hannah Ellis, international campaigns manager for the London-based WaterAid, told IPS, the news service adds. Last week in a joint statement, the government of Finland, UNICEF, U.N. Women, WaterAid, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, “called for an end to water and sanitation inequalities in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda,” IPS notes (Deen, 11/15).
With recent suggestions “of privatizing the [U.S.] government’s emergency response capability for natural and human-caused disasters and infectious diseases,” Henry (Chip) Carey, an associate professor of political science at Georgia State University in Atlanta, writes in the World Policy Blog, “One might want to look at Haiti for a case study in the effects of bypassing the government health sector for private organizations.” He continues, “In Haiti, the result of decoupling the state from health care has been across the board decreases in water and sanitation quality.” Carey reviews the history of Haiti’s health system and conditions surrounding the 2010 cholera outbreak. He concludes, “What is needed are comprehensive, low-tech sanitation systems and clean, common water sources throughout the country, overseen by the Haitian government. In the past three decades, the U.S. has not given Haiti’s leaders the chance to show us that they can rise to the occasion. It is high time we change course and help the Haitians help themselves” (11/14).
U.N., Partners Call For Greater Efforts To Fight Number One Killer Of Children On World Pneumonia Day
On World Pneumonia Day (WPD), recognized on November 12, “[t]he United Nations and its partners … called for greater efforts to eradicate pneumonia, the number one killer of children under the age of five,” the U.N. News Centre reports. According to the WHO, “pneumonia, which is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years every year — more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,” the news service notes (11/12). In a statement recognizing WPD, USAID said, “Thankfully, we have in our possession the tools needed to change the tide on these statistics. Now we need new ways to deliver badly needed health services and new ways to stimulate demand in the most rural pockets of the world” (11/12). “The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia, a partnership of more than 140 government, international and philanthropic organizations, sponsors WPD,” IIP Digital adds (Porter, 11/9).
Sometimes “[w]hen the international aid community descends on a vulnerable place … good intentions make a bad situation even worse,” a Boston Globe editorial states, adding that is “what happened two years ago, when United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake, bringing the deadly disease cholera with them.” According to a panel of U.N. experts, poor sanitation in the peacekeepers’ camp likely caused the outbreak, which has killed 7,000 people and sickened 500,000, the editorial notes. “So far, the United Nations has declined to apologize for its role, or even admit it — perhaps because it is facing a deluge of expensive legal claims brought by the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti on behalf of the victim’s families,” the editorial states, noting that after a year, the “U.N. says it is still studying the claims.”
“An epidemic of dengue fever in India is fostering a growing sense of alarm even as government officials here have publicly refused to acknowledge the scope of a problem that experts say is threatening hundreds of millions of people, not just in India but around the world,” the New York Times reports. Dengue is endemic in half of the world’s countries and continuing to spread, experts say, according to the newspaper. In India’s capital, New Delhi, “where areas of standing water contribute to the epidemic’s growth, hospitals are overrun and feverish patients are sharing beds and languishing in hallways,” the newspaper writes. With officials citing 30,002 cases of dengue in India through October, “a 59 percent jump from the 18,860 recorded for all of 2011,” several experts say the true number of infections in the country is in the tens of millions, the New York Times notes.
Since its arrival in Haiti two years ago, “cholera has sickened more than 600,000 people and killed more than 7,500,” and “[t]his year the epidemic is on track to be among the world’s worst again, with nearly 77,000 cases and 550 deaths, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health,” Ralph Ternier and Cate Oswald of Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health in Haiti write in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Despite the decrease in cases from 2011, every new case represents an unnecessary and preventable infection and an even further potential of completely preventable and unnecessary death in hardest-to-reach areas,” they state. Though a “multi-pronged approach” to treating and preventing cholera has significantly decreased the number of cases, “[t]he sad reality is that … we know that cholera is not going away, [yet] emergency funding for cholera is,” they write.
“Nigeria’s worst flooding in at least half a century has killed 363 people since the start of July and displaced 2.1 million people,” according to the country’s National Emergency Management Agency, Reuters reports. Between July 1 and October 31, 7.7 million people were affected by the flooding and 18,282 people were injured, the agency said, the news service notes (11/5). In makeshift camps without “water, sanitation or medical care, authorities fear outbreaks of disease could make things worse,” VOA News reports. In addition, “emergency officials say with tens of thousands of hectares of farmland destroyed, they fear food shortages in the coming months,” according to the news agency. In October, “[t]he Nigerian government … allocated $112 million to help families that have been displaced in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states since the flooding began in July,” VOA writes (Murdock, 10/30).
“Flooding in Haiti caused by Hurricane Sandy has triggered a surge in cholera, with three deaths and almost 300 suspected cases, adding to a death toll from the storm of 54,” the Financial Times reports (Mander, 11/2). “Already struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Isaac in August, which in turn set back rebuilding from the earthquake of January 2010, Haiti now faces renewed crises on multiple fronts,” PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” writes (Lazaro, 11/2). “Three days of torrential downpours and strong winds brought by Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of Haiti’s fragile agriculture and have put a million and a half Haitians at risk for hunger, the United Nations’ humanitarian-aid coordination office said over the weekend,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which notes, “Potential food-price increases worry international and Haitian officials” (Arnesen, 11/4).
The international community on Monday observed Global Handwashing Day, GlobalPost reports in a roundup of news coverage surrounding the day. “According to the Guardian, 3,000 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhea alone, making it the second most common cause of child mortality worldwide,” GlobalPost writes. “While it may seem trivial, science has proved handwashing education necessary,” the news service continues, noting Lifebuoy soap estimates that by promoting handwashing “over the last five years the number of deaths caused by diarrhea have been cut in half.” According to GlobalPost, India’s Economic Times reports “a review of 11 countries showed the average rate of handwashing after using the toilet is only 17 percent” (Leasca, 10/15).