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.

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.

Safer water, sanitation could save 2.5 mln lives – WaterAid

The lives of 2.5 million people could be saved every year if governments committed to universal access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, charity WaterAid has said.

Citing the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), WaterAid said in a report that boosting access to clean water and sanitation could save people by reducing deaths from diarrhoea, malnutrition and related diseases.

Although the global Millennium Development Goal (MDG 7) water target to reduce by half the proportion of people living without safe water by 2015 has now been met, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and Oceania are lagging behind, WaterAid said.

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