The Pollution in Iran’s Ahwaz Region Turns Deadly

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

The Pollution in Iran’s Ahwaz Region Turns Deadly

Image: public domain from Pixabay.

Severe sandstorms have blanketed Iran’s Ahwaz region again this past week, with people choking as atmospheric dust levels reach 57 times the safety limit set by the World Health Organization. In late January the news broke that citizens were crowding hospitals across the predominantly Arab region—which is desperately poor despite being home to over 95 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran—complaining of severe shortness of breath and respiratory problems. Between January 21 and 25, three people died from severe respiratory illnesses.

The area is blanketed by a thick smog of sand and visibility is down to under 200 meters. The government has suspended flights to and from regional airports and closed schools, offices and banks across the once-lush province.

In 2013, the city of Ahwaz, the capital of the region, topped the World Health Organization’s list of most polluted cities in the world. According to the report, Ahwaz’s average Air Quality Index score was 372—the global average is around 71—or “Hazardous”. It was the only city on the list with an average value above 300. Reporting on the situation at the time, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) wrote that “contributing factors include desertification caused by river diversion and the draining of the marshes and the oil, petrochemical, metals and sugar and paper processing plants in and around Ahwaz.”

More than four years later, the situation in Ahwaz remains unchanged, and the group most affected are the region’s indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, who have long been discriminated against by successive Iranian governments.

The reason for the high rates of pollution is the accelerating desertification of the region, due to the extensive drying of the rivers and marshes as a result of the massive river-damming and diversion project initiated when Hashemi Rafsanjani became president in 1989. The project has seen millions of gallons of water rerouted from the region’s rivers to other parts of Iran and has intensified the already high rates of pollution and environmental degradation in the region.The dust storms combine with the constant clouds of choking pollution released into the atmosphere by the region’s petrochemical refineries and factories—none of which are subject to any environmental regulations or oversight—and also with the pollution produced by the burning of sugarcane.

Speaking on condition of anonymity due to fears of reprisals by the Iranian regime, an Ahwazi high school student told Global Voices that, “The burning used to take place during the day, but after there were protests by local Arabs chanting ‘We might be able to buy potable water, but we cannot buy clean air!’ they have begun burning it at night. This morning, the school grounds were covered in several centimetres of ash from the burning. I already have severe asthma, and this is making my condition worse.”

Sugarcane in the Ahwaz region

Sugarcane is not indigenous to Iran, but has been cultivated in the region since the 1960s. During the tenure of Hashemi Rafsanjani the government embarked on an ambitious state-subsidized sugarcane-farming project that involved the seizure of thousands of hectares of farmland from Ahwazi farmers whose ancestors had farmed there for generations. Thousands of families were driven into abject destitution as their farmland was converted into vast sugarcane plantations.

These efforts have brought little profit: the sugarcane project has proven economically disastrous, with imports far cheaper than local production. The greater concern, however, is the widespread pollution and environmental devastation it has wrought on a region that was once the breadbasket of the Gulf area. Across the Ahwaz region, in cities like Falahiyeh, Muhammarah and Abadan, massive plantations of palm trees whose produce was famed across the Middle East have either been deliberately destroyed or simply left to wither. Also at serious risk are the region’s flora and fauna, as the Falahiyeh wetlands and the Hor-Azim wetlands are almost completely destroyed.

Sugar refineries are depleting the already scarce supply of river water for their water-intensive processes, and polluting the region’s remaining rivers and streams by pumping untreated chemicals used in the sugar-cleaning and refining process back into the waterways. This leaves the water downstream unusable and high in saline, which destroys the arable lands of the region’s poor Ahwazi farmers.

Then there’s the burning of the sugarcane, which takes place on plantations around the Ahwazi capital and other cities in the region before the May-November harvest. The smoke from burning sugar cane is thick and heavy due to the dense sugar and alcohol content; instead of drifting upward it blows across the land, causing severe and sometimes fatal respiratory and skin problems among the population.

The heavy toll on health

At the end of January, at least three Ahwazi Arabs were reported to have died as a result of respiratory problems caused or exacerbated by the region’s severe air pollution. One of them, 43-year-old Kareem Abdul Khani from the city of Susa, who suffered from chronic asthma, was rushed to the city’s Mafi Hospital on January 21 after complaining of dizziness and difficulty breathing due to the severe pollution in the area, which greatly exceeded usual levels. He died the following day.

The second man, 47-year-old Hamid Hamdian from Mollasani County near Ahwaz city, had been suffering from respiratory disease for some time. He died suddenly after being overcome by severe breathing problems.

The third man, 34-year-old Ahmed Chenani from Hamidieh city, 30 kilometers west of Ahwaz, died from chronic respiratory problems on the night of January 25, after suffocating from the air pollution blanketing the area. Family members who rushed him to the Golestan Hospital in Ahwaz city, said that the lack of adequate medical facilities and the negligence of medical staff contributed to his death.

Rates of cancer in the region are also rising. A member of the medical staff at a hospital in Ahwaz who, like other interviewees, wished to remain anonymous, said that ten years ago the hospital had 40 beds that were largely underused. In recent years, the hospital has become overrun with cancer patients.

All this is a huge price to pay, especially for the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, who are still denied all but the most menial jobs in sugarcane and oil—the two industries wreaking havoc on their home region‚—while ethnic Persians are brought in from other parts of Iran and offered high wages and modern, purpose-built housing in segregated settlements. Despite being natives of the wealthiest region in Iran in terms of resources, the majority of the Ahwazi people live in medieval conditions under a de facto apartheid system.

Zimbabwe News: Country on the brink of collapse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ZIMBABWE NEWS AGENCY ‘NEWS.COM.AU)

 

Country on the brink of collapse

The currency is failing, the government’s digging its heels in, and tourists are staying away as this nation faces collapse.

news.com.auNOVEMBER 7, 20178:04AM

Mugabe removed as WHO goodwill ambassador

UNEMPLOYMENT is at a staggering 90 percent, the currency — or lack thereof — is a global laughing stock and any money that could be raised through tourism isn’t coming through.

Welcome to Zimbabwe: the country that’s about to collapse.

Zimbabwe’s financial ruin is a foregone conclusion for many of the world’s economists. A new currency experiment by the government, spearheaded by president Robert Mugabe, 93, is backfiring. The country can’t pay for its borrowed electricity, a cash shortage has forced people to barter to survive, and it’s managed to drive away any foreign tourists otherwise willing to spend their money there.

And while a general election will be held next year, there seems little sign of change: Mr. Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, revealed on the weekend her plan to succeed her aging husband as the country’s first woman president.

People burn worthless note bearers cheques during a protest against the introduction of new bond notes and youth unemployment in Harare. Picture: AFP/Wilfred Kajese

People burn worthless note bearers cheques during a protest against the introduction of new bond notes and youth unemployment in Harare. Picture: AFP/Wilfred KajeseSource: AFP

But as Mr. Mugabe focuses on his party’s election victory, a cash shortage has sparked panic-buying as people struggle to find patrol and basic needs, and it echoes the economic crisis of 2009 that’s still a fresh nightmare to millions of people in the debt-ridden nation.

IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE

Zimbabwe’s currency dysfunction has long been the stuff of infamy.

The government scrapped the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009 after hyperinflation peaked at an eye-watering 500,000,000,000 percent — wiping out people’s savings and destroying businesses. At that time, a loaf of bread was more than 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars or 40 US cents.

Zimbabwe then switched to a whole host of foreign currencies and largely settled on the US dollar. But amid a shortage of the greenback, the Mugabe government came up with a new plan — “bond notes”, equivalent to US dollars, which it introduced a year ago to boost economic growth.

It was hoped the bond notes, which are not valid outside Zimbabwe, would stop US dollars flowing overseas. But they divided ordinary Zimbabweans, many of whom feared the alternative currency would trigger a similar economic crisis as with the old Zimbabwean dollar.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is at the helm of another currency crisis. Picture: AFP/Zinyange Auntony

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is at the helm of another currency crisis. Picture: AFP/Zinyange AuntonySource: AFP

In the past few weeks, a lack of confidence in the bond notes has set further in and stockpiling and panic-buying have seen prices rocket. The fear is things are returning to how they were in 2008, at the height of hyperinflation.

“We are already witnessing shortages of basic commodities,” Peter Mutasa, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, told AFP.

“The situation has been triggered by lack of confidence in the bond notes. We are being driven to barter for goods as there is no hard currency in the banks.”

Meanwhile, the government is back to its notorious habit of printing more money to cover its rising costs and hyperinflation is creeping back. This year, it’s at 348 percent, according to Forbes.

Zimbabwe’s export opportunities are limited — especially in the agriculture sector, in light of farm raids. Fuel shortages have struck the capital, Harare.

The country is powered by electricity from South Africa’s state-run power company Eskom but doesn’t pay for it: Eskom threatened to cut power to Zimbabwe earlier this year. Whether the cash-strapped government finally pays its electricity bill, or it doesn’t, there’s bound to be trouble.

Introduced 12 months ago, Zimbabwe’s bond notes have sparked a multi-tier pricing structure. Picture: AFP/Wilfred Kajese

Introduced 12 months ago, Zimbabwe’s bond notes have sparked a multi-tier pricing structure. Picture: AFP/Wilfred KajeseSource: AFP

Meanwhile, protests held in the capital Harare to oppose Mr. Mugabe and his economic policies turned to violence last month, with police using tear gas on protesters.

Zimbabwe economist Prosper Chitambara said things were likely to get worse ahead of next year’s election.

“There is a lot of uncertainty due to the political situation,” he told AFP.

“That is why we have seen the re-emergence of the parallel market and a multi-tier pricing structure. As we approach the elections, the uncertainty will increase.”

WHY TOURISM ISN’T HELPING

There have been many countries in economic crisis that have at least been able to rely on tourism to inject some funds into depleted coffers. Greece, for instance, recently described its tourism revenue as its “lifejacket” during its debt crisis.

Not so in Zimbabwe.

The naturally beautiful country is famous for its safaris and the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls — the largest waterfall in the world and an Instagram sensation — and locals are famously warm and welcoming. Outside of Africa, tourists from the US, the UK, Ireland, and Germany have been among its top 10 foreign arrivals.

But Zimbabwe a notoriously expensive place to visit and that’s been a huge turn-off for travelers.

“I went to some country recently where I booked in a five-star hotel and paid a bill of $53 all inclusive. I was shocked and thought they had made a mistake in their calculations,” Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke said last year.

“This was when I realized that as a country, we need to do something to review our prices if we are not to earn a bad name as the world’s most expensive tourist destination.”

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a major tourist attraction.

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a major tourist attraction.Source: Supplied

Zimbabwe recently started charging foreign tourists a value-added tax of 15 percent, but that was another plan that backfired — if anything, it’s kept tourists away.

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism president has called the tourist tax “exceptionally unhelpful, if not destructive” and last month George Manyumwa, president of Zimbabwe’s hospitality association, called for the tax to be scrapped.

“The introduction of the tax, unfortunately, resulted in an increase in the service rates in the tourism sector and reduced profitability due to a decline in demand,” Mr. Manyumwa told the Zimbabwe Independent. “The occupancy rates have remained stagnant at an average of 50 per cent.”

Mr Manyumwa said tourists were also staying away because they feared Zimbabwe’s notorious police roadblocks. The money-making initiative, which is widely considered corrupt, has targeted tourists driving around the scenic country.

“The reality of the roadblocks is that tourists felt unwelcome into the country when they were penalized for offenses unfamiliar to them,” Mr. Manyumwa said.

“The most affected market that has since declined is that of self-drive tourists, whose form of tourism benefited various parts of the country … Some indicated that they thought there were safety concerns resulting in the need for heavy police presence, implying that Zimbabwe might not be a safe destination.”

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe said on Sunday she was willing to succeed her ageing husband Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe said on Sunday she was willing to succeed her aging husband Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP/Tsvangirayi MukwazhiSource: AP

Tourists from South Africa can usually be relied on to comprise a third of the foreign visitors in Zimbabwe, but the South African rand’s depreciation against the US dollar has seen those figures fall below 10 percent.

But tourism isn’t the focus in Zimbabwe right now. Neither is, it seems, the economy.

The ruling party, Mr Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, needs to win next year’s election. As of now, Mr. Mugabe remains the party’s candidate, despite his failing health and his wife’s recent promise to succeed him.

Meanwhile, the party is spending money as fast as it can, sociology professor Roger Southall said in a recent piece for The Conversation.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who had been warning of the country’s economic stability, has just been dumped by Mr. Mugabe. His replacement, according to Prof Southall, is a “party loyalist, who will brook no talk of any need for structural reform”.

“Zimbabwe is living on borrowed time and borrowed money,” Prof Southall, of Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, said.

“It will again end in financial ruin, as it did in 2008.

“But all ZANU-PF cares about is ensuring that it wins the next election and allowing its political elite to ‘eat’.”

Robert Mugabe Removed From WHO Ambassador Position

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may be one of the longest-serving leaders, but his stint as a goodwill ambassador was anything but.

Days after the World Health Organization named him as a goodwill ambassador, a move that angered and stunned human rights activists, it rescinded the appointment.
“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“It is my aim to build a worldwide movement for global health. This movement must work for everyone and include everyone.”
Tedros said he consulted the Zimbabwean government and concluded it’s in the organization’s best interests.
The public health agency announced the appointment last week, saying the African leader would focus on noncommunicable diseases on the continent such as heart attacks and strokes.
A public outcry ensued. Angry tweets took aim at Tedros and the public health agency.
“The government of Robert Mugabe has brutalized human rights activists, crushed democracy dissidents and turned the breadbasket of Africa — and its health system — into a basket case,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which monitors the performance of world body.
WHO is part of the United Nations and focuses on international public health. Mugabe has long been criticized for corruption and abuse of power.

Zimbabwe's society struggles under Mugabe's rule

Zimbabwe’s society struggles under Mugabe’s rule 02:43
In making the appointment, Tedros, an Ethiopian andWHO’s first African director-general, had said Mugabe would use his role to ensure other leaders make noncommunicable diseases a priority.
“Zimbabwe … places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide health care to all,” he said.
At 93, Mugabe is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders and has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 with little opposition.
Along with his inner circle, he has been under US sanctions since the early 2000s over human rights abuses and the erosion of democratic institutions. President Barack Obama extended sanctions for another year before leaving office in January.
In 2009, Mugabe’s ruling party spent more than $250,000 on a lavish birthday party for the leader despite an ongoing food shortage and cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's President celebrates as people suffer

Zimbabwe’s President celebrates as people suffer 02:08
Goodwill ambassadors for WHO are public figuresappointed to two-year terms by the director-general. They work closely with UN officials to raise awareness of global health issues.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was named a global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases last year.

San Diego: Hepatitis A Outbreak: At Least 421 Sickened And 16 Dead So Far

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EPOCH TIMES)

(Epoch Times is based in New York City and mainly focuses on China news)

 

At least 421 people have been sickened and 16 have been killed during an outbreak of Hepatitis A in San Diego as of Sept. 12, 2017.

Some 292 people of the 421 were hospitalized due to the illness, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency’s latest figures, released Tuesday.

“This is an outbreak of unprecedented proportion, and we have not seen an outbreak of this nature as relates to hepatitis A before,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health director, CNN reported.

Most of the infections—65 percent—are occurring among homeless people, those who use illegal drugs, or both. Another 23 percent of cases occurred in people who associate with homeless people, Wooten explained to the news network.

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“Basically, if an individual is infected with hepatitis A and they use the bathroom and don’t wash their hands, and then they can spread or contaminate the environment: door handles, ATMs or whatever they touch,” Wooten said.

Symptoms of the illness—which can be “mild to severe”—can include “fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine, and jaundice,” according to the World Health Organization.

Wooten was forced to declare a state of emergency in the county on Sept. 1.

“The local emergency was declared to increase and heighten awareness of the seriousness of the outbreak,” she said.

As NPR reported, San Diego officials started washing down sidewalks down with bleach to kill off the bug. The areas sprayed down with bleach are frequented by homeless people.

Mike Saag, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, told the broadcaster that San Diego’s bleaching approach is a reasonable one.

Geographic distribution of Hepatitis A prevalence — Red: High : prevalence higher than 8%; orange: Intermediate : between 2% and 7%; grey: Low : less than 2% (Wikipedia)

“If there’s a sanitation problem, then the thing to do is clean up the area, and bleach is probably the best disinfectant that we have for this type of viral infection,” he said.

Wooten, meanwhile, added that more than 21,000 people have been vaccinated.

According to the World Health Organization, the risks are higher where there is:

  • poor sanitation;
  • lack of safe water;
  • use of recreational drugs;
  • living in a household with an infected person;
  • being a sexual partner of someone with acute hepatitis A infection; and
  • travelling to areas of high endemicity without being immunized.

According to San Diego officials, here is how it’s transmitted:

  • Touching objects or eating food that someone with HAV infection handled.
  • Having sex with someone who has a HAV infection.

Yemen Now Faces ‘The Worst Cholera Outbreak In The World,’ U.N. Says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

Yemen Now Faces ‘The Worst Cholera Outbreak In The World,’ U.N. Says

A Yemeni child suspected of having cholera sits outside a makeshift hospital in the capital, Sanaa, earlier this month. World health authorities say that of the more than 1,300 people who have died of the disease, a quarter have been children.

Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

Seized by violence and teetering on the edge of famine, Yemen is grappling with another danger that threatens to outpace them both: cholera.

“We are now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world,” international health authorities said in a statement Saturday.

Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, and Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, say that “more than 1,300 people have died — one quarter of them children — and the death toll is expected to rise.”

They suspect that is because Yemen now has upwards of 200,000 cases to grapple with, and that number is growing quickly — by a rate of roughly 5,000 cases a day.

“And geographically, it is expanding,” Mohamed El Montassir Hussein, Yemen director for the International Rescue Committee, told NPR’s Jason Beaubien earlier this month. “It’s not a small area. It’s almost the whole country.”

Hussein added:

“There is nowhere in the country you can say, ‘This place is better than another’,” says Hussein. “Every family is suffering from something whether it’s cholera or lack of food, having child soldiers in the family or having someone go join the rebels or the military. There’s been a whole collapse of the social life.”

After more than two years of civil war, Yemen’s health care system is at risk of “complete collapse,” a UNICEF spokesman told Jason.

The country has been roiled by violence since Houthi rebels seized power and ousted the president, who fled to neighboring Saudi Arabia. Since then, a Saudi-led coalition supported by the U.S. has waged a protracted campaign against the rebels — and some worry that support makes the U.S. complicit in Yemen’s deepening humanitarian crisis.

“There’s a U.S. imprint on every civilian death inside Yemen that’s caused by the Saudi bombing campaign,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut told NPR’s Michele Kelemen last month after the U.S. signed a new arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudis simply could not operate this bombing campaign without us,” he continued. “Their planes can’t fly without U.S. refueling capacity. They are dropping munitions that we’ve sold them. We are standing side by side with them often when they are reviewing intelligence about targets.”

Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman — who, as NPR’s Deborah Amos reports, is said to have been “the prime mover in the kingdom’s decision to go to war in Yemen” — recently authorized a $66 million donation to support UNICEF and WHO’s anti-cholera efforts there.

“We look forward to discussing this contribution with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre,” UNICEF responded in a statement Friday. “Such generosity will make a great difference to thousands of children at risk of contracting this rapidly spreading disease.”

Lake and Chan made clear in Saturday’s statement just how rapid it’s spreading — and, in turn, just how rapid the response needs to be.

“We are working around the clock to detect and track the spread of disease and to reach people with clean water, adequate sanitation and medical treatment. Rapid response teams are going house-to-house to reach families with information about how to protect themselves by cleaning and storing drinking water,” they said.

“We call on authorities in Yemen to strengthen their internal efforts to stop the outbreak from spreading further.”

More than 100,000 ill in deadly cholera outbreak in Yemen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

A cholera outbreak in war-torn Yemen continues to spread at a rapid pace. Over 124,000 cases have been recorded as of Tuesday, with 923 people — a quarter of them children — dead in the current outbreak, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a statement Tuesday.

Cholera is an infection caused by ingestion of Vibrio cholerae bacteria in water or food contaminated with feces. Symptoms include sudden onset of watery diarrhea that can lead to death by severe dehydration. According to the World Health Organization, cholera is widespread in the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen, with the number of cases surging since late April.
“The fact of the matter is, this is really a dire humanitarian situation and seemingly is only getting worse, particularly for children,” UNICEF spokesman Christopher Tidey said.
Aid workers say Yemen, which has weathered civil conflict and terrorism for the past two years, is experiencing a humanitarian crisis. Not only are millions of civilians living in the crossfire, but they can no longer afford food, shelter or medicine, as the violence has devastated the economy.

Millions in need of assistance

Of Yemen’s population of 27.4 million, UNICEF estimates that 18.8 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, Tidey said. Two-thirds of the population does not have access to safe drinking water or adequate sanitation. Of the country’s 12.6 million children, 1.6 million are displaced while nearly 80%, or 9.6 million, require humanitarian assistance, Tidey said.
No age group can avoid cholera. People over 60, for instance, represent 33% of all fatalities from the disease, according to UNICEF. Cholera has an extremely short incubation period of just two hours to five days, and unlike other diarrheal diseases, it can kill even healthy adults within hours, according to the WHO.
While adults in Yemen are suffering, half of all cholera infections there are occurring in children, said Meritxell Relaño, the UNICEF representative in the country.
“Children continue to bear the brunt of the war in Yemen. Many who have become ill or have died from cholera were suffering from malnutrition,” Relaño said.
In fact, more than half of the population is food-insecure, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.
About 2.2 million Yemeni children are malnourished, 462,000 of them severely so and thus currently at risk of death, Tidey said.
“When you have children already in that precarious situation in terms of their own health and well-being and then you have a cholera outbreak on top of that, well, that obviously makes them more vulnerable,” he said.

Efforts to help

Countries facing complex emergencies are particularly vulnerable to cholera outbreaks, according to the WHO. That includes Yemen, where the disease has affected about 268 districts in 19 of its 22 governorates, the organization says. Yemen’s cholera fatality rate, 0.8%, is nearing what is considered the emergency threshold, 1%.
To stop the spread, the WHO and UNICEF are honing in on the areas reporting the highest number of cases. The WHO has established four cholera treatment facilities and 16 oral dehydration centers in the country. Along with training health workers to manage cases, the WHO is providing emergency medical supplies to treatment facilities.
Dr. Nevio Zagaria, head of the WHO’s office in Yemen, said in a statement that the organization has identified hot spots. “Stamp out cholera in these places, and we can slow the spread of the disease and save lives,” Zagaria said. “At the same time, we’re continuing to support early and proper treatment for the sick and conducting prevention activities across the country.”
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UNICEF is involved in providing water and sanitation services and support, including disinfecting water tanks and wells, as well as getting clean water to children.
More than two years of conflict also means damage to societal infrastructure. Medical supplies are flowing into Yemen at a third of the rate of before the conflict began, Tidey said, adding that UNICEF has “95 verified attacks on health facilities, including personnel.”
“We know that health and sanitation haven’t received their salaries in about nine months,” Tidey said. “Nearly half of all the health facilities in the country are not functional. So those two things combined with the ongoing conflict itself makes it very difficult for people who need treatment to access it.”

1st Malaria Vaccine To Be Tested In 3 African Countries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

The World Health Organization announced on Monday that Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have been chosen to test the first malaria vaccine, which will be administered to hundreds of thousands of young children next year.

The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures, the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement.

The challenge is whether impoverished countries can deliver the required four doses of the vaccine for each child.

The injectable vaccine, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to protect children from the most deadly form of malaria in Africa. The $49 million for the first phase of the pilot is being funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

It will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether its protective effects shown so far in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. At least 120,000 children in each of the three countries will receive the vaccine, which has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs, but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said. The countries will deliver the vaccine through their existing vaccination programs.

Malaria remains one of the world’s most stubborn health challenges, infecting more than 200 million people every year and killing about half a million, most of them children in Africa. Bed netting and insecticides are the chief protection.

Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit by the disease, with about 90 percent of the world’s cases in 2015. Malaria spreads when a mosquito bites someone already infected, sucks up blood and parasites, and then bites another person.

A global effort to counter malaria has led to a 62 percent cut in deaths between 2000 and 2015, WHO said. But the UN agency has said in the past that such estimates are based mostly on modeling and that data is so bad for 31 countries in Africa — including those believed to have the worst outbreaks — that it couldn’t tell if cases have been rising or falling in the last 15 years.

WHO is hoping to wipe out malaria by 2040 despite increasing resistance problems to both drugs and insecticides used to kill mosquitoes.

“The slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection, shaping the genetic profiles of African populations,” Kathryn Maitland, professor of tropical pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College London, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in December. “Contrast this pace of change with our progress in the treatment of HIV, a disease a little more than three decades old.”

Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East also have malaria cases.

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Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Michigan Doctor Charged With Performing Female Genital Mutilations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC)

APR 13 2017, 8:22 PM ET

Michigan Doctor Charged With Performing Female Genital Mutilations

A Michigan doctor has become the first to be charged under federal law for allegedly performing female genital mutilation on several girls, ranging from 6 to 8 years old, officials said Thursday.

A federal complaint lodged against emergency room physician Jumana Nagarwala alleges the doctor was performing the procedure, where part or all of the female genitalia is removed, on numerous girls out of a medical office in Livonia, Michigan.

Nagarwala is charged with female genital mutilation, a five-year felony, and transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, a 10-year felony, according to the complaint.

Related: Hospital Shut Down After Egyptian Girl Dies During Circumcision

This is believed to be the first case brought under a law passed in 1996 and amended in 2012, which criminalizes female genital mutilation, according to the Department of Justice.

“Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls. It is also a serious federal felony in the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch in a statement. “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.

According to the complaint, federal officials launched an investigation after being tipped off that Nagarwala performed the procedure on two 7-year-old girls who were brought by their families from Minnesota for the procedure.

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in Washington. Andrew Harnik / AP file

Phone records and surveillance tapes linked the families of the girls to Nagarwala, and when questioned the girls’ parents admitted to law enforcement that they traveled to see the doctor for “extra cleansing of skin.”

A medical examination on the girls showed abnormal genitalia, and one of the girls said “her parents told her that the procedure is a secret and she is not supposed to talk about it,” the complaint alleges.

Further investigation found other children in Michigan were also seen by Nagarwala from 2005 to 2007, according to the complaint. Some of the parents of those children have admitted to having the procedure done by the Michigan doctor.

Nagarwala, who couldn’t be reached for comment, allegedly told investigators she was “aware the procedure was illegal” but denied ever performing them.

“The allegations against the defendant in this investigation are made even more deplorable, given the defendant’s position as a trusted medical professional in the community,” said Special Agent in Charge Francis in a statement.

Nagarwala is listed on staff at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit Michigan, but the hospital said the physician was on “administrative leave” in a statement on Thursday.

“The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility. We would never support or condone anything related to this practice,” said David Olejarz, a hospital spokesman.

Image: Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit
Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit Benjamin Beytekin / dpa via AP

Female genital mutation is performed to make a girl more acceptable in certain communities and is thought to increase her eligibility for marriage by ensuring her virginity in many cultures, according to human rights organization Equality Now.

An estimated 200 million women and girls have been subjected to the procedure, according to the World Health Organization. The practice is more prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but has picked up momentum in the United States.

“Approximately 513,000 women and girls in the United States were at risk for [genital mutilation of circumcision] or its consequences in 2012 which was more than three times higher than the earlier estimate, based on 1990 data,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Related: Horrific Taboo: Female Circumcision on the Rise in U.S.

“This is a form of child abuse,” said Shelby Quast, director of Equality Now’s Americas Office. “We are encouraged seeing a doctor charged with FGM, because this will have a big impact on others who are performing this illegal act,” she said.

“This sends a message to other doctors that if you violate the law, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted.”

China’s First Lady Peng, G-20 First Ladies Bring Attention To HIV/AIDS Prevention

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Peace and harmony with Peng

PENG Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, invited the wives of leaders attending the G20 summit to visit the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou yesterday. She invited her guests to write the Chinese character “he,” meaning peace or harmony.

Peng also invited the wives to an anti-AIDS advocacy tour at Zhejiang University in the tourist city.

Peng, a World Health Organization goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, said such activities had been carried out in many Chinese universities to good effect and that the foreign guests’ attendance would have a positive influence.

Peng called on countries to work together in improving the level of HIV/AIDS prevention and the search for a cure.

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