The Human Impact

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.

Patients with multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) fail to respond to treatment with two of the powerful anti-tuberculosis drugs. Totally-drug resistant TB, which cannot be treated with any known drugs, is also rising. The cost of treating these forms is high – £250,000 compared to £5,000 for conventional TB, and the side effects are even worse.

TB strains resisting conventional treatment are present in virtually all countries, according to the WHO. The BRICS countries of fast-growing economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – account for more than half of cases.

Only two Southern African countries on track to meet 2015 MDG water and sanitation targets – report

Some 120,000 children under the age of five in Southern African countries die every year from diarrhoea, which is primarily caused by lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

More than 40 million people in the region who should have received access to safe drinking water by 2015 will miss out, and 73 million will go without basic sanitation due to investment shortfalls, according to a report.

Only two out of 15 Southern African countries – Botswana and Seychelles – are set to meet their 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets to reduce by half the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation, according to the report by Water Aid.

Q+A – Child-friendly toilets key in fight to improve global sanitation

If toilets meet children’s needs, this will keep them in school longer, reduce the spread of life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases and help meet development goals, according to the charity Water For People.

At least 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have proper sanitation facilities. The combined effects of improper sanitation, unsafe water supply and poor hygiene are estimated to cause almost 2,000 child deaths per day, the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, reports.

“Allowing youth to become comfortable using toilets and practising good hygiene from a young age, means that as they grow up there are fewer people to educate and convince of the reasons that improved toilets are important,” said Kate Fogelberg, Water For People’s regional manager in South America.

London sanitation show aims to make “poo” hot topic

Human defecation remains a taboo subject, despite the fact that 2.5 billion people lack toilets, causing a global health crisis that kills more than a million children each year.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) hopes a new exhibition opening on Thursday will make sanitation easier to discuss. The show is part of its efforts to help fight diseases causing diarrhoea, which kill more children than malaria, HIV/AIDS and measles combined.

“People don’t talk about poo enough, and if we don’t talk about poo, how are we going to solve the problem of diarrhoeal diseases?” asked Val Curtis, director of the LSHTM’s Hygiene Centre.

Female genital cutting ‘destroys women’ – Malian singer

By Maria Caspani

LONDON (TrustLaw) – “In Mali, when a girl has not been cut, it means she is dirty, she is loose,” says Bamako-born singer Bafing Kul.

This concept baffled Kul, who struggled to understand why, in order to be pure, women in his country needed to be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) – a traditional practice involving the total or partial removal of the external genitalia.

The cutting, which is often done with razor blades or scissors and no pain relief, can lead to permanent physical and psychological damage.

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.

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.

Director hopes Haiti cholera film will pressure UN

An American filmmaker is hoping to use the power of viral video to raise awareness about Haiti’s cholera epidemic in much the same way the surprise Internet sensation Kony 2012 got the world talking about the plight of child soldiers under Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

If David Darg’s award-winning documentary, “Baseball in the time of Cholera”, gets even a fraction of the 100 million hits the Kony video received, there could soon be a lot more people demanding action on Haiti’s epidemic.

Darg’s hard-hitting film aims to heap public pressure on the United Nations to take responsibility for the outbreak which began in October 2010 and continues today.

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.

Undernourished and anaemic – the plight of India’s teen girls

The U.N.’s latest report on the state of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents gives food for thought, especially on the plight of India’s girls aged between 10 and 19.

The report explores a range of issues affecting teenagers around the globe, from nutrition and health to sexual behaviour, knowledge on HIV/AIDS, attitudes towards gender violence and access to education.

Data from surveys of adolescent girls in India, and South Asia in general, are once again a reality check – which we shouldn’t need but unfortunately still do.

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