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Also In Global Health News: Tajikistan Earthquake; WHO Head Marks 2009 Milestones; Mexico Health Program; Dry Toilets; Kenya HIV Testing

About 20,000 People Homeless After Tajikistan Earthquake, Officials Say

“Tajikistan officials say about 20,000 people have been left homeless after an earthquake rocked the impoverished central Asian nation” on Saturday, VOA News reports. The quake severed electrical supplies and communications in affected areas, officials said (1/3). A regional spokesperson for the country’s Civil Defense Committee that oversees the affected area said a clinic, two schools and a power line had been destroyed. “The spokesman reported no deaths but said dozens of sheep and goats were killed in the earthquake,” Agence France-Presse reports (Borisov, 1/3).

Several Health Milestones In 2009, But Challenges Continue, WHO Director-General Says

At a press conference reflecting on 2009, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan highlighted health achievements, such as the halving of malaria deaths among children in Africa, but noted that challenges remain, VOA News reports. “She says she is deeply touched by the lack of progress in maternal mortality. She says about one half million women in Africa and Asia continue to die of problems related to pregnancy and childbirth,” the news service writes. She also called for expanded efforts to address violence against women (Schlein, 12/30).

PBS’ NewsHour Examines Mexican Cash Transfer Program That Relies On Women To Improve Health

PBS’ NewsHour looks at Mexico’s cash transfer programs that aims to promote health and address poverty. “Started 12 years ago by the Mexican government, the program, called Oportunidades – or Opportunities – gives a small subsidy every other month to poor mothers … But there is a catch, one that separates Oportunidades from traditional welfare plans,” which is that the mothers “must first sign a contract to raise healthier, better-educated children.” The NewsHour notes: “The conditional cash transfer program centers on women, who, officials say, are the key to long-term health for a family. Better-educated women raise healthier children.” At least 30 countries, mostly in Latin America, have similar programs (Suarez, 12/29).

IPS Examines Dry Toilet Project In Uruguay

Inter Press Service examines a project in Uruguay, which helps residents install dry toilets. Thirty families are currently a part of the “appropriate sanitation for vulnerable sectors in the metropolitan area of Montevideo” project, which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the non-governmental Uruguayan Centre for Appropriate Technologies (CEUTA). “The project helps local residents install dry toilets – an ecological sanitation solution that saves water, separates urine from solid waste, and returns nutrients contained in human feces to agriculture, by converting waste into manure after a special treatment process,” IPS writes (Acosta, 12/28).

Rights Group Asks Kenyan Government To Protect Rights During Home HIV Tests

In response to Kenya’s plans to test four million people for HIV in their homes, the advocacy organization Human Rights Watch, “sent the Kenyan government a letter asking that it ensure that all those tested – particularly children and teenagers – have their rights protected during the process,” the New York Times reports. Human Rights Watch recommended that outreach workers should obtain consent from older children directly, “rather than relying on demands from parents or other relatives,” the newspaper writes. “‘In the past,’ the group said, ‘children have been kicked out of their home, exploited or physically ill-treated by their relatives when their status became known,'” the New York Times writes (McNeil, 12/28).

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