The Human Impact

Q+A- Sierra Leone cholera outbreak spreading unusually quickly – ChildFund

Poor road networks and heavy rains are limiting the ability of aid workers to accelerate the fight against a severe cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has claimed the lives of at least 250 people and infected more than 15,000, according to charity ChildFund International.

Insufficient resources, a lack of proper toilets and insecure access to safe drinking water are also complicating relief efforts, Billy Abimbilla, national director for ChildFund Sierra Leone, told AlertNet.

Cholera is also spreading throughout West Africa in Guinea, Liberia, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in western Niger, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency. The cholera emergency in the region has killed more than 1,100 people, and more than 55,000 cases have been reported in 15 countries — an increase of 34 percent compared to the same period in 2011, according to the U.N agencies.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the vibrio cholera bacterium. It is transmitted by ingesting food or water contaminated with fecal matter containing vibrio cholera, prompting diarrhoea and vomiting. If left untreated, infected people can die of dehydration, sometimes within a matter of hours.

Abimbilla shared his thoughts on the cholera emergency with AlertNet:

Q: What is the scale of the problem you are tackling? How does this differ from other outbreaks?

Lack of funds threatens Syrian refugee medical care in Lebanon -MSF

Medical assistance is at risk for thousands of Syrians fleeing into Lebanon who are living in overcrowded conditions, suffering psychological distress and unable to afford medical care, according to a new survey from charity Medecins Sans Frontieres(MSF).

At least 60,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon to escape fighting in their country since conflict broke out almost 18 months ago, according to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency.

“Most Syrian refugees in Lebanon are reliant on humanitarian assistance, but this is now coming under threat,” according to the report by MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

Rage in India a spotlight on Sri Lanka’s war victims

Almost four years since Sri Lanka’s war ended, rage over the lack of rehabilitation for thousands of survivors of the bloody 25-year-long civil conflict has surfaced – not on the war-torn Indian Ocean island itself, but in neighbouring India.

India’s Tamil Nadu state — where the majority Tamil ethnic group have a close association with Tamils living across the Palk Straits in Sri Lanka – have long felt their brothers have been discriminated against by the Sinhalese-ruled government.

The war, pitting separatist Tamil Tigers against President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lankan Armed Forces, saw tens of thousands of mainly Tamil civilians in the north and east of the island killed or injured, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

UN agencies urge speed in fight against W.Africa cholera

More than 1,100 people have died from cholera infection this year in West Africa, and a total of 55,289 cases have been reported in 15 countries — an increase of 34 percent compared to the same period in 2011, according to a joint statement released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency.

The cholera emergency in West Africa is set to get much worse due to rain and flooding that is creating conditions for the disease to spread quicker and further, the statement said.

In some of the most affected countries the situation has been made worse by exceptionally heavy rains that have flooded shanty towns in some urban centres, it said. The disease is spreading in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo and in western Niger.

Policymakers agree global water monitoring initiative – expert

Policymakers have agreed an ambitious plan to create a global monitoring and reporting system to oversee water supply, sanitation and water resources management, a U.N. expert said.

Part of the initiative would be assisting developing countries to collect and analyse data on their water resources. The data would likely feed into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are expected to replace the U.N. anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, Joakim Harlin of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said.

Harlin said UN Water, a body coordinating work done by U.N. agencies, was working on defining a proposed SDG water target to replace the MDG of halving the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015.

Storm Isaac puts spotlight on Haiti’s homeless

BOGOTA (AlertNet) – Couples strolling through parks and squares now empty of makeshift tents, crowds enjoying football matches and voodoo and hip hop summer festivals, rubble-free streets.

These were signs of normality that I saw during a trip to Haiti last week, returning to the Caribbean nation two and a half years after a massive earthquake flattened the capital Port-au-Prince.

But as Tropical Storm Isaac tore through Haiti early last Saturday killing at least eight people and washing away food crops in muddy flood waters, the plight of hundreds of thousands of Haitians still living in tent camps is once more in the spotlight.

Bringing life and hope to Zimbabwe through song

The purpose of song is to give hope to the people, Afro-jazz musician Oliver Mtukudzi says. Perhaps this is especially true of the music legend’s native Zimbabwe.

During Mtukudzi’s lifetime, Zimbabweans have struggled through a long war for independence from British and minority white rule, a vicious AIDS epidemic, explosive bouts of political violence, hyperinflation, hunger and a cholera crisis.

In a career spanning 30 years or so, Mtukudzi’s gift for addressing the most taboo of subjects through his music and lyrics has led him to being described as a moral guardian, a Shona prophet, a national hero.

Q+A: Pepsico water chief talks about Stockholm water prize

As people increasingly try to lessen their impact on the environment by conserving energy and water, many companies – including some of the large multinationals – are following suit.

This week in the Swedish capital, environmental sustainability was in focus for hundreds of delegates at the World Water Week conference where topics ranged from how best to achieve food security for almost 1 billion people who currently go hungry to corruption in the water sector and how to provide adequate sanitation for 2.5 billion people who lack it.

Among the water-sector achievements honoured with awards at the annual conference, PepsiCo, the maker of Diet Pepsi, Gatorade, Frito-Lay snacks and Tropicana orange juice, snatched up the prestigious Stockholm Industry Water Award for increasing water efficiency in its own production facilities and working to defeat water problems on a larger scale. PepsiCo has net revenues of more than $65 billion and 300,000 employees around the world.

Ex-NASA engineer designs mWater app to chart water quality

When environmental engineer John Feighery got an internship at NASA in the 1990s, he wanted to be an astronaut. Instead, he was given a job working with a team designing the U.S. bathroom for the International Space Station.

The small, closet-like space needed a toilet, a place for hand washing, a place for bathing and a place to keep toiletries. Feighery also worked on a project to fix equipment designed for monitoring crew health, which included testing water and air quality.

After the Columbia Space Shuttle accident in 2003 left seven crew members dead, the Space Shuttle programme was suspended and further work on the International Space Station was delayed.

Iraqi Kurdistan govt failing to enforce FGM law – HRW

By Maria Caspani

LONDON (TrustLaw) – Women and girls in Iraq’s Kurdistan region continue to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) because the local government is failing to enforce a law banning the practice, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The provision against FGM was part of a 2011 landmark law the Family Violence Law - to tackle violence against women in the autonomous region in northern Iraq.

Kurdistan’s government has launched awareness campaigns and training courses for police and judges on the part of the law addressing domestic violence against women but has neglected to inform and enforce the articles banning FGM, the New York-based group said.

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