The Human Impact

Frontline reflections on Guinea’s battle against Ebola

 

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Nobody would have thought that Gueckedou, a market town in southern Guinea, was the front line in West Africa’s battle against the deadly Ebola virus.

When I arrived to report on the outbreak, it was business as usual on the dusty, potholed streets. Traders set up their stalls under tattered, sun-bleached parasols and waved hand-held fans to stop the food spoiling in the tropical heat.

Below the surface, though, lay a simmering tension. Nobody shook hands here if they knew what was good for them, and those who could afford it bought gloves and face masks to avoid the gruesome disease that has killed well over 100 people in Guinea and Liberia since it was first reported in February.

Ebola has broken out periodically in Africa since it first appeared in 1976 in what were then Zaire and Sudan. The virus is spread through contact with infected blood, bodily fluids and tissue, often during funerals when the body is washed by close family members, or in hospitals where victims infect doctors and nurses who are not taking the right precautions.

In Gueckedou, health workers are fighting what the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) described as an “unprecedented epidemic” with soap and education. Those already infected are isolated and nurses help to ease their suffering before their almost certain death. There is no cure and this strain, Ebola Zaire, kills up to 90 percent of victims.

Can the world get rid of tuberculosis?

It would be easy to think that tuberculosis is under control. TB, one of the world’s top two infectious disease killers, has been declining slowly but steadily and in some parts of the world it has been almost eradicated.

But one of the oldest epidemics afflicting mankind has come back with a new face: drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) is on the rise globally and experts warn that deadly strains are spreading at an alarming rate, threatening to unravel much of the progress made in tackling TB.

Around 450,000 people fell sick with these dangerous superbug strains of TB in 2012, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Fewer than one in four were diagnosed, putting the rest at risk of dying due to the wrong medicines or no treatment at all.

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.

How can contraception cut child deaths?

LONDON (TrustLaw) – It’s well known that good family planning vastly reduces the risk of women dying from pregnancy complications and helps prevent miscarriages and still births.

What is far less recognised is the effect that spacing out pregnancies has on the survival of children way beyond birth.

A report published by the Lancet medical journal on the eve of an international summit on family planning says improving access to contraceptives in developing countries could reduce deaths in young children by 20 percent.

Researchers hope to reduce sub-Saharan Africa newborn deaths

Clinical trials are underway to test a new treatment for pregnant women, which could tackle some of the leading preventable causes of death for babies in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have said.

A large number of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with both malaria and sexually transmitted–reproductive tract infections (STIs – RTIs), according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Each year an estimated 25 million women in sub-Saharan Africa  are at high risk of malaria infection during pregnancy, the study said. Malarial infection heightens the risk of miscarriage, still births, or premature birth and death.

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