Opinions: Keep Smallpox Samples; Cholera In Haiti; ‘Bad Milk’ In Haiti; Haitian President-Elect; Corruption; World Malaria Day Opinion Roundup

Last Smallpox Samples Should Not Be Destroyed

“We fully agree that these samples should – and eventually will – be destroyed. However, we also recognize that the timing of this destruction will determine whether we continue to live with the risk of the disease re-emerging through deliberate misuse of the virus by others,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes in a New York Times opinion piece about the pending WHO decision on whether to destroy the last known samples of the smallpox virus.

“Although keeping the samples may carry a miniscule risk, both the United States and Russia believe the dangers of destroying them now are far greater,” Sebelius writes before outlining the U.S. case for why the samples should be preserved. “Destruction of the last securely stored viruses is an irrevocable action that should occur only when the global community has eliminated the threat of smallpox once and for all. To do any less keeps future generations at risk from the re-emergence of one of the deadliest diseases humanity has ever known. Until this research is complete, we cannot afford to take that risk,” she concludes (4/25).

‘Bad Milk’ In Haiti

Dennis Rosen, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, writes about his experience treating a severely malnourished infant in Haiti in a New York Times essay. The child’s mother “had stopped nursing shortly after he was born because her ‘milk was bad,’ and had been bottle-feeding him with watered-down 7Up soda,” Rosen writes. “The Haitian belief in ‘bad milk’ … is one of the main reasons for the premature stopping of breastfeeding in Haiti, often with deadly consequences for the infant deprived of safe and dependable nourishment,” he notes. Rosen also describes how nurses he worked with in Haiti helped a mother understand the importance of breastfeeding her premature infant.

“The difference between breast milk and calorically depleted drinks, or formula prepared from water potentially contaminated with organisms that cause diseases like cholera, can be a matter of life or death. And so encouraging this young mother to give her son the sustenance he needed was a potentially lifesaving intervention, achieved through patience, education and the building of trust,” he writes, concluding, “While it may not sound like much, the sad truth is that in Haiti all of these are hard to come by and remain very much in need” (4/25).

Global Community Should Focus On Addressing, Not Analyzing, Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic

In a Huffington Post opinion piece, Georgianne Nienaber, an investigative journalist and political writer, examines Haiti’s ongoing cholera outbreak and the international community’s failure to adequately respond. “Obviously, the absence of latrines, desludging activities, and safe drinking water, provides an opportune environment for cholera and other water borne diseases. Incredibly, temporary shelters do not include sanitation. People are defecating into plastic bags, or going on the ground or in streams. Water purification tablets are in short supply, if they can be obtained at all in rural areas,” she writes. “Someone please give [the Haitian] people a Morse Code manual,” Nienaber pleads. “Aid Workers and funding institutions, answer your wireless cell phones, please. We don’t need any more studies on what Haiti needs in the way of basic human rights of clean water, shelter and food. Don’t watch, dumbfounded, as yet another disaster unfolds,” she concludes (4/24).

Haitian President-Elect Is A Political Novice With Some Interesting Ideas

A Washington Post editorial takes stock of Haitian President-elect Michel Martelly. “For the most part, he succeeded in signaling that his government will provide the leadership and sense of urgency that has been lacking in the outgoing administration of President Rene Preval. Still, concerns remain about Mr. Martelly’s political instincts and his commitment to national reconciliation,” according to the editorial. Martelly “is rightly outraged that hundreds of thousands of people remain jobless and in tent cities more than 15 months after the devastating earthquake hit in January 2010, and he wants to accelerate their resettlement to permanent dwellings. … In a country where poor farmers still account for some 60 percent of the population, he also wants to revitalize the agricultural sector,” the newspaper notes. The editorial concludes, “Mr. Martelly remains a political novice; so are most of his advisers. Washington and other key donors are right to give them the benefit of the doubt and to provide any reasonable assistance for the new government to succeed. The people of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, badly governed for decades, deserve a break – both from their own new leaders and from donor nations” (4/23).

In Haiti, Maybe It’s U.S. And Other Global Corruption That’s The Problem

“Politicians [in Washington] are quick to blame the Haitians for the lack of progress since the earthquake, and corruption is often assumed to be exclusively a Haitian problem. But it is clear that some of it comes from outside. Maybe a lot,” Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, writes in a Guardian opinion piece. “I think I’d rather have some of the poorer countries’ corrupt practices that don’t have so much influence on policy – like paying a bribe to get my passport renewed – than the ones that give us 25 million people unemployed, underemployed or having dropped out of the labour force. Unfortunately, though, our corruption is an even bigger problem for the Haitians, who are desperately poor and can afford it much less,” according to Weisbrot.

“As a result of two centuries of foreign intervention, which has caused more damage than the earthquake, including the overthrow of two democratically elected governments in the past two decades, Haiti has been reduced to dependency on foreign aid. … It’s time for the so-called international community to clean up its act,” he concludes (4/22).

World Malaria Day Opinions

Headlines for opinions published in observance of World Malaria Day:

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

KFF Headquarters: 185 Berry St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270

www.kff.org | Email Alerts: kff.org/email | facebook.com/KFF | twitter.com/kff

The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.