- Cholera treatment at Borgne hospital.
- Ansel Herz
The latest development in the more than three year old cholera outbreak in Haiti saw another finger pointed towards the United Nations.
Gustavo Gallon, a UN-appointed expert, authored a report on Haiti details a host of problems faced by Haiti, from the treatment of prisoners to delayed elections. It also included a section on the cholera outbreak. He says that evidence shows that the UN peacekeeping mission from Nepal is responsible and that the victims should be compensated
“The diplomatic difficulties around this question have to be resolved to stop the epidemic as soon possible and pay full compensation for suffering experienced,” wrote Gallon in the report. ”It is advisable to shed light on what really happened and to punish those responsible, whoever they may be.”
The lawyers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) welcomed the report, but were disappointed that the UN has yet to take responsibility. It is one of the groups that filed a lawsuit against the UN in October to hold the organization and the peacekeeping mission accountable for the cholera outbreak. It was proceeded bye the invocation by the UN of immunity, in order to protect itself from a lawsuit.
“By calling for compensation in accordance with the guidelines that govern the gravest human rights violations in the world, Gallón is rightfully recognizing the gravity of the situation,” said co-counsel for the plaintiffs, Jeff Brand. “The UN itself warns that another 2000 people may die in 2014, yet it’s not responding adequately to the crisis or victims’ calls for justice.” Continue reading
- Pakistani security officials and relatives of tribal police assigned to guard polio workers who were killed in bomb blasts, pray next to the bodies during their funeral, near Peshawar.
- AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad
The year is young, but Pakistan has already endured a serious of setbacks in riding itself of polio. Two new cases were confirmed over the weekend in Peshwar. Meanwhile, a bomb attack on a polio vaccination team left 11 dead and 12 wounded.
The fight against polio has been far more literal than figurative. Since December 2012, more than 40 people working with or for polio vaccination in Pakistan have died. The increase in cases of polio from 58 in 2012 to 91 in 2013 is attributed to the poor vaccine coverage in the country. Attacks on vaccine workers has only made it harder to reach young people.
Police vehicles carrying officers meant to protect polio vaccine workers were struck by a bomb on Saturday. A second bomb went off a few minutes later, when a new convoy was sent in response to the first attack. A firefight ensued between the surviving officers and the unknown gunmen.
“An Attack on security personnel providing security to Polio Teams is an attack against Humanity,” said the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio, Aysha Raza Farooq, in a Facebook post following the attacks. “Such coward attacks and conspiracies against our goal of Polio Free Pakistan will further strengthen our resolve to stamp this menace out of the country.”
It starts with a joyful birthday celebration. Short clips show a young girl as plays a recorder, rides a bike and kisses a boy. She goes about her happy life as news programs and publications speak of clashes in the UK. Things start to look worse, but a detonation behind her turns the happy story into one of chaos. As the girl and her family run she ends up at a camp, where she celebrates a somber birthday, staring at the camera and to the audience.
The new video comes from Save the Children UK. It imagines the affect of a conflict like the civil war in Syria on a British girl. Life goes from childhood whims to the horrors of war. The video ends with the message:
“Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”
The video hopes to make a personal connection to the ongoing fighting in Syria. Many of the families that have been displaced by the fighting are not all that different than the young girl’s. Syria was a country that was doing relatively well and had a vibrant middle class. More importantly, the video wants to convey that distance should not prevent people from taking action by speaking up on the crisis.
A day after its release, the video has been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube. Continue reading
- Early anti-vaccine hysteria. Cartoon of Edward Jenner administering cowpox vaccine to frightened young women, and cows emerging from different parts of people’s bodies.
- Wikipedia, James Gilray
Vaccines are widely, legitimately, hailed as one of medicine’s most powerful weapons in the fight against infectious disease. Millions of lives are saved, deaths prevented, every year using this simple tool that can cost as little as a handful of pennies.
Holy bang for the buck, batman!
So it’s unfortunate we know so little about how vaccines actually work. Not knowing has spawned a persistent anti-vaccine movement by those who fear, based on little hard evidence, the potential for harm caused by tweaking our immune system.
But not knowing is also causing some problems for the biomedical community.
“I don’t see how we’re going to ever develop effective vaccines against AIDS, TB or malaria without first gaining a lot more insight into how the immune system works – and how vaccines promote immunity,” said Alan Aderem, president of Seattle Biomed, a research organization that has been working on matters of global health since Bill Gates was a teenager. Continue reading
- Girl misses school to carry water home. (Tanzania)
- Tom Murphy
Only two countries in Southern Africa are likely to achieve improved access to safe water and improved sanitation, by the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The more than 100 million people without safe water and the 174 million without proper sanitation face serious health risks, due to the problem.
“Southern African governments must meet their past promises on water and sanitation and, together with donors, invest at the levels needed to put an end to the crisis that causes hundreds of thousands of children’s lives to be prematurely and needlessly extinguished,” said Robert Kampala, Water Aid’s Head of Region for Southern Africa.
Falling behind means that 40 million people who should have gained access to safe water by 2015 will not. Catching up will come at a price, says the UK-based NGO Water Aid in a new report. The region needs to see spending increase by $3.6 billion per year if it wants to fix the problem.
The massive problem comes with deadly consequences. More than half of all children in Madagascar are affected by diarrhoeal disease, which is more often than not the result of poor water and sanitation. Diarrhea alone kills 14,000 children under five years old each year, in the country. The effects extend to missed school and work, both of which make it harder for families to earn and living, thus slowing down progress for an entire nation.
The news is slightly better for safe water advances than it is for sanitation, in the region. Of the 12 countries in the region, 7 are nearing universal access for water. The rest are off track, says the report. At present, less than half of all people living in the DR Congo, Madagascar and Mozambique have access to clean water. Sanitation is far worse with only three countries on track.
- Obese Chinese boys leap during an exercise to lose weight at a military training camp in Tianjin, China.
Global health and development discussions often focus on lessons that the developed world can “teach” the developing world.
With the welcome decline in extreme poverty worldwide, many nations that once had to worry most about hunger now are struggling to combat the harm of over-eating, eating the wrong things and lack of physical activity.
In today’s post, we’ll be exploring how Mexico and the US can learn from each other in the fight against obesity.
Mexico is a hotbed of experimentation. As explored in a Humanosphere article last year, it recently began taxing junk food and sodas in an attempt to tackle its growing obesity problem.
Health policy wonks, researchers, advocacy groups, and the beverage industry are keeping close tabs on the situation to see what happens. The stakes for each of these groups are high—a recent Politico article theorizes that if the taxes succeed, this could re-invigorate the debate on soda tax in the US.
Last week, the chief financial officer of Coca-Cola FEMSA, the Mexico-based bottler, said that the entire beverage industry’s sales of sugar-sweetened beverages in Mexico had dropped by 5% to 7% following the enactment of the taxes in Mexico. Continue reading
- A U.S. Army Soldier from Alpha Company, 13th Psychological Operations Battalion pulls security from a humvee at a vehicle control point in the village of Kapisa, Afghanistan.
- Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel
The price of insecurity is quite high. The Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that the world spent $9.46 trillion to contain violence, in 2012. That accounted for some 11% of the global economy.
“Were the world to reduce its expenditure on violence by fifteen percent it would be enough to provide the necessary money for the European Stability Fund, repay Greece’s debt and cover the increase in funding required to achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals,” says the Institute for Economics and Peace.
The estimate is a part of a new report from the group that calls attention to the economic impact of violence. While the human cost is well documented, this is one of the first reports that accounts for the money spent on containing violence and the money lost due to it happening. A marginal decrease in violence could have a major impact.
Military spending eats up half of the cost, followed by the impact of homicides and then internal security (ie. police officers). The countries that spend a large portion of their GDP on violence containment come as little surprise: North Korea, Libya, Syria and the US. One slightly surprising entry is development darling Liberia. The country is still emerging from the damage caused by a pair of nearly successive civil wars spanning from 1989 to 2003.
I spoke with Michelle Breslauer, the Americas Program Manager for the Institute for Economics and Peace, about why Liberia is so high on the list and what can be learned from the study.
I found it surprising that Liberia was so high on the list. Why is violence still such a problem in a country that is lauded for its post-civil war advances, including a Nobel Peace Prize?
Despite Liberia’s notable advances, it is a country that still feels the effect of conflict. The methodology of this analysis attempts to measure the full space devoted to violence containment in a country. The majority of Liberia’s violence containment spending is a result of the UN Peacekeeping mission presence, which is operating partially to compensate for weak peace-supporting institutions. In the 2013 Global Peace Index, IEP compared levels of peacefulness with a country’s peace-supporting institutions. Liberia has a ‘peace deficit’ which suggests that the level of peace the country experience is not matched by the strength of its institutions. Continue reading
- A scene from 12 Years a Slave.
The annual ceremony celebrating accomplishments in film started with red carpet gawking and ended with a sober reminder.
Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” said Director Steve McQueen after his film, 12 Years a Slave, won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
“This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”
12 Years a Slave is an adaptation of a little known book written by Solomon Northup. The free black man was kidnapped when in Washington DC in 1841. The book recounts the twelve years he spent as a slave in Louisiana. The book was initially successful, but was not well known until it was re-discovered by a pair of researchers in the 1960s. The film version of Northup’s story garnered widespread praise for the director and the actors in it.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln 151 years ago, making slavery feel like a distant memory. McQueen’s few words served as a reminder that the abhorrent practice is far from over around the world. Slavery today takes many forms, from the trafficking of women in the sex trade to the use of children for labor. Mauritania was the last country to abolish slavery, in 2007, and it still deals with the problem.