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origami provides access to clean waterPaper for Water is a non-profit organization located in Dallas, Texas that transforms lives through origami practices. In 2011, two sisters, Katherine and Isabelle Adams, ages five and eight years old, discovered that millions of people in the world do not have clean water resources. Furthermore, in impoverished countries, young women often skip school to walk miles in search of clean drinking water. So, the Adams sisters decided to make a difference by handcrafting origami ornaments for donations to build a well for an Ethiopian community. After raising more than $10,000, when their original goal was to raise $500, the Adams sisters established their corporation, Paper for Water. Here is how origami provides access to clean water.

Now, Katherine and Isabelle Adams, ages 14 and 16, work alongside hundreds of volunteers across North Texas. Since 2011, Paper for Water has raised over $2 million, helping fund 200 water projects in numerous countries. Paper for Water has trained over 1,000 people the art of folding origami. It has graced over 48,000 people with access to clean water through implementing water wells in deprived communities.

Paper for Water and Education

Additionally, Paper for Water educates local communities in the global water crisis. There are approximately 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea every year in children less than five years old. Diarrhea accounts for about 760,000 deaths in children under five years old annually. Diarrhea is now the second leading cause of death in children across the world, advancing AIDs, malaria and measles combined. Caused by unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation conditions, diarrhea is one obstacle developing communities across the globe face.

Paper for Water stresses the importance of clean water well building through their past 120 educational talks, which reached 14,000 people. Paper for Water’s informational efforts gained the attention of influential social media platforms, such as Nickelodeon’s HALO Effect, the Kleenex Corporation, Martha Stewart Living, People Magazine and CBS.

Where Paper for Water Does Business

Paper for Water currently sells its origami ornaments on their online store and in some temporary stores as specified online, such as Neiman Marcus and Galleria Dallas. The beautiful, ornate decorations are Paper for Water’s primary source of financial donations. Each profit from an ornament sold goes straight into Paper for Water’s efforts of water well building abroad. So, with each paper folded, with each origami created, Paper for Water provides access to clean water. Nevertheless, Paper for Water relies on monthly donors of $10 a month to help maintain its goal of installing one water well per month.

Paper for Water has partnered with businesses across North Texas, instituting large installations of their elegant crafts. In 2017, Paper for Water constructed 350 origami ornaments for Neiman Marcus’ Christmas Book. This partnership with Neiman Marcus enabled two schools in Kenya to receive water wells. Galleria Dallas and Mo Wax Visual partnered with Paper for Water in 2018, crafting over 4,000 origami butterflies for their “Fold to Flight” display. Galleria Dallas Mall provided Paper for Water with a temporary store during the summer installation. The Crow Museum of Asian Art’s Lotus Shop in Downtown Dallas also installed a Paper for Water exhibit. The magnificent origami piece exhibits a collaborative project with Ekaterina Lukasheva, a famous origami artist.

Current Partnerships and Success

Paper for Water also has partnerships across the United States through its essential volunteer base. Multiple groups of volunteers appear across the nation, consisting of the Well Wishers Group, the Paper Dolls Group, Paper for Water’s Youth Representatives Worldwide, NorthPark Presbyterian Church, Volunteers of All Ages Group and several families and school clubs across America. With the help of volunteers making origami ornaments, the organization can make a difference and administer clean water resources globally.

Paper for Water is transforming lives one piece of paper at a time. Through designing origami pieces, the organization combines art and philanthropy, supplying the world’s thirsty with clean water wells. Paper for Water hopes to end the world water crisis and continues to make and sell origami ornaments every day. Paper for Water’s website provides multiple options to get involved in the cause, from purchasing origami ornaments to learning how to make origami to volunteering or donating monthly. 

– Kacie Frederick 

Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Haiti
Haiti has struggled with access to clean water over the past few decades. While strides have been made to improve the sanitation situation, the earthquake in 2010 augmented the problem. Access to clean water became almost impossible after the earthquake, culminating in the subsequent cholera outbreak. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Haiti.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Haiti

  1. Prior to the 2010 Earthquake, only 69% of Haitians had access to an improved water source and only 17% had access to an improved sanitation facility. After the earthquake, however, these numbers plummeted, leading to the spread of cholera and typhoid. Organizations like Health Equity International have begun to combat this issue by providing water treatment tablets and water safety education.
  2. Only 24% of Haiti’s population has access to a toilet. With limited access to toilets, a nationwide sewage system has been hard to implement and maintain. This deficiency facilitates the spread of water-borne illnesses like cholera.
  3. Haiti’s WASH sector (Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene) is mostly financed by donors such as the World Bank, UNICEF, CDC and Swiss Development Cooperation. While these are major donors, anyone can donate.
  4. In 2012, the CDC helped the National Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation (DINEPA) train communal water and sanitation technicians (TEPACs) to help improve water infrastructure in rural areas. TEPACs are extremely helpful because they routinely assess water systems, monitor free chlorine in the water, work with humanitarian aid and support the WASH sector.
  5. Before the 2010 earthquake, no waste management facility existed in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. After the earthquake and following cholera outbreak, the Morne a Cabri wastewater treatment was opened. This was extremely beneficial, as waste could be properly managed as opposed to remaining in a fecal sludge.
  6. The World Bank, in conjunction with DINEPA, supported a project to improve water and sanitation in Haiti. This project resulted in the construction of 25 sets of latrines, 25 urinals and 28 hand-washing stations. It also built sanitation works in public schools and a health center.
  7. In 2015, the Ministry of Health, DINEPA and the Ministry of Trade outlined a program to improve and monitor water quality. This agreement (The Promotion of Sanitation, Hygiene, and Life) was signed into law in 2016.
  8. Shortly after the cholera outbreak, the Haitian government implemented the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti 2013-2022. This plan includes a framework for improving water, sanitation, health care, education, transportation and more. By increasing access to potable water and sanitation facilities, the government hopes to limit the spread of water-borne diseases.
  9. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) worked with the Haitian Solid Waste Collection Agency to remove health care waste (needles, bandages, gloves, etc.). As a result, hospitals received more training and information regarding how to manage medical waste.
  10. After U.S. government assistance, 392,000 people in Haiti gained access to improved sanitation and 2.1 million people gained access to improved drinking water.

These facts about Haiti and the country’s lack of clean water highlight the importance of consumable water and sanitary environments. While Haiti’s water accessibility and sanitary facilities are behind other nations in the Western Hemisphere, it is improving its infrastructure and hygiene-educational efforts to improve the lives of Haitian citizens.

– Ehina Srivastava
Photo: Flickr

environmental factors affecting impoverished communities
The environment can have profound effects on impoverished communities by being a huge force in either aiding or hindering developing countries. Those facing extremely impoverished conditions often rely almost solely on the health of their environment in order to sustain a clean, resourceful and plentiful living environment. An abundance of varying environmental factors like temperature, average rainfall, wildlife, water sources, soil nutrients and pollution levels can contribute to the general well-being of citizens in impoverished communities. Meanwhile, a lack of resources that could improve significant environmental factors in comparison to the more advantaged higher-class community can put impoverished communities at an automatic disadvantage. The quality of water, the availability of natural resources and the vulnerability to natural disasters are all aspects of how the environment affects impoverished communities.

Quality of Water

Water sources available to a community can come in many forms and are critical to the everyday life of communities in poverty; the quality of local water sources and the resources available to maintain good quality water are examples of how the environment can have an effect on poor communities. Citizens of impoverished communities often cook, clean, drink, fish, irrigate their crops and bathe in shared water sources. This shows just how critical the quality of this water can be to an entire community.

Low-infrastructure regarding water filtration and purification can cause an increase in health problems. One of these health problems can be cholera, a potentially life-threatening disease common in impoverished communities due to water contamination. The accumulation of trash, dumping of hazardous materials and daily reliance on a source of water can cause contamination.

Availability of Natural Resources

Natural resources also assist in a community’s prosperity and serve as an example of how the environment affects impoverished communities. A rural community often relies on natural resources like agriculture and soil quality, livestock and genetic diversity and forests and fisheries for multiple reasons. A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed the positive effects of maintaining natural resources in impoverished communities. The study successfully expanded access to land in South Africa, increased access and management of forests in Bolivia, supported the sustainable management of watersheds in India, improved access and management of fisheries in Samoa and enabled the poor to be a part of the carbon market in Mexico. The FAO study also exhibits that an increase in natural resources can increase job opportunities for local citizens. More consideration and funding for natural resources, as well as education, can increase the well-being of an impoverished community.

Vulnerability to Natural Disasters

An impoverished community often faces increased vulnerability due to the devastating effects of natural disasters. Some natural disasters are hurricanes, tornados or tsunamis. The World Bank study reports that the effects of natural disasters cost the global economy $520 billion a year. This estimate is 60 percent higher than any previous estimate once it properly considered impoverished communities. Impoverished communities are especially vulnerable because there are few prevention and action emergency plans due to improper resources. Stronger government support and improved technology to better prepare for upcoming disasters could decrease the risk of detrimental effects.

A significant disadvantage low-class communities face compared to higher-class communities occurs because of an extreme lack of infrastructure, funding towards protecting natural resources and governmental prevention and action plans in the event of a natural disaster. Studies by the FAO and The World Bank demonstrate the importance of even one factor of the environment that affects impoverished communities. Once impoverished communities can put more focus into taking care of the environment, they can start building themselves from the ground up.

– Kat Fries
Photo Credits: Google

Cholera Health Crisis in Yemen
A massive resurgence of cholera afflicts Yemen, a bacterial infection that can kill within hours if untreated. Between January 2018 and June 2019, reports have determined there have been about 800,000 cases of cholera in the country. Here is a breakdown of the cholera health crisis in Yemen and the response from four notable organizations.

What is Cholera?

Cholera is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, severe dehydration, nausea and vomiting. It mainly spreads through the consumption of water and food contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

Industrialized countries with proper water sewage filtration systems are unlikely to experience surges of cholera outbreaks. However, countries with inadequate water treatment are at a much higher risk of experiencing a cholera epidemic. Areas afflicted by natural disasters, poverty, war and refugee settings are at an exacerbated risk of experiencing cholera outbreaks.

The oral cholera vaccine is highly effective but the vaccine was not available in Yemen prior to the epidemic outbreak in 2017. Since then, more than 300,000 Yemenis received the cholera vaccination but continuous conflict provides a barrier between health care officials and the rest of the population. Doctors Without Borders maintains that the vaccine, while highly effective, is not enough to end cholera due to its low supply and short term protection.

Cholera Health Crisis in Yemen

As Yemen faces its fourth year of war, the country also fights a looming health crisis. The cholera health crisis in Yemen affects 22 of 23 governorates and almost 299 of Yemen’s 333 districts. Recording over one million cholera cases in 2017, Yemen’s crisis is the worst cholera epidemic on record.

Driven by years of war, the country has experienced a significant collapse in access to food, safe drinking water and health care. With millions of Yemenis facing famine, malnourishment increases the risk of cholera infections becoming fatal.

Many organizations are on the ground in Yemen, treating as many cholera cases as possible. Organizations responding to the health crisis in Yemen include Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Islamic Relief Foundation and World Health Organization (WHO).

If left untreated, the mortality rate of cholera can be very high. With proper treatment, cholera is very easy to cure. The problem is that it is not easy for cholera victims to get to a medical center quickly, especially amidst times of war. One MSF treatment center in the governorate of Khamer explains the hardship that increasing fuel prices pose on those seeking health care.

During the peak of the cholera health crisis in Yemen, MSF treated over 100,000 patients with cholera. The use of cholera kits, essentials to treat the infection, allows the charity to respond quickly and effectively to any cholera outbreak. MSF also has cholera treatment centers in the heart of areas with cholera outbreaks.

Since cholera can lead to severe dehydration, the main cause of death in cholera cases, MSF has rehydration points conveniently located closer to communities than medical centers. Such rehydration points are effective in treating mild cholera cases.

Save The Children Offers Health Care

Since children with malnutrition are three times more likely to die from cholera, groups that provide nourishment in Yemen are essential. Save the Children, the first-ever international aid group in Yemen, not only distributes cash and food vouchers to families but also provides food for children and pregnant women.

Supporting 167 health facilities in Yemen, Save the Children provides training to health care professionals and volunteers in malnutrition management and prevention, a step taken to further alleviate the cholera crisis in Yemen.

Islamic Relief USA Provides Access to Clean Water

Islamic Relief USA works to provide vital aid, emergency food assistance and emergency water supply in the war-torn country. Clean water is vital to the country because cholera mainly spreads through contaminated drinking water. Islamic Relief USA is actively providing a clean supply of water to the governorates of Aden and Taiz. Both Taiz and Aden will have water tanks installed close to homes and schools so they remain water-secure when the organization is no longer active in these governorates. About 4,000 internally displaced people in these governorates will be at a decreased risk of cholera infection due to an increase of clean water supply from the water tanks.

The World Health Organization Increases Defenses Against Cholera

The World Health Organization maintains that Yemen is beginning to see a decrease in cholera infections. Financial aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are contributing to this decrease. Millions of Yemenis now have access to health care unlike before. WHO is working on increasing the availability of diarrheal treatment centers, cholera vaccines and training of health providers in Yemen.

With 17.8 million water insecure people, Yemen is a breeding ground for cholera. Organizations like those listed above are essential to promoting prevention, care, and hopefully soon, the suppression of the cholera health crisis in Yemen.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

Ghana’s Water Crisis
Much like many other countries in Africa, Ghana‘s water crisis is straining the nation. The local government has taken steps to try and minimize the damage, but a growing population, faulty equipment and rapid urbanization are outpacing most improvements. Here are eight facts about Ghana’s water crisis.

8 Facts About Ghana’s Water Crisis

  1. While some African countries suffer from a lack of water, Ghana suffers from too much polluted water. The problem lies in a lack of functioning water filters. The government plans to replace these defective filters, but the costs can run to an estimated $35 million. Despite this, the government is going ahead with the project with the support of outside companies, such as Native Energy and NGOs.
  2. The rapid urbanization in Ghana causes water pollution. Unsafe housing with poor housing facilities like sinks and toilets pour polluted water into waterways. This causes families to resort to water vendors, which are often not sanitary. This leads to a vicious cycle of water pollution, where more people get sick as a result.
  3. One of the leading diseases affecting the people of Ghana is cholera. It spreads primarily through the use of faulty toilets and plumbing. A flash flood further exacerbated the situation in 2014 when copious amounts of polluted water mixed with water supplies, affecting 30,000 people.
  4. The government has taken steps to improve the state of affairs with the Ghana Clean Water Project. This project seeks to improve the water situation by hiring skilled individuals to administer water quality testing as well as teaching communities how to maintain sanitation practices. The cleanliness is especially important since as mentioned before poor sanitation contributes heavily to Ghana’s water issues.
  5. Dry winter winds, called harmattan, also cause water shortages in Ghana. This leads to water rationing, which of course leads to protests and public discontent. Deforestation and illegal gold mining further exacerbate the problem by further polluting the limited water supply.
  6. Seventy-three percent of the population, or about 23 million people, use water that may not follow sanitary standards. This would mean that only 3.9 million people in Ghana can access water that is safe. Everyone else has to sift through contaminated water.
  7. Population growth, alongside rapid urbanization, also causes water pollution. Between 2016 and 2050, projections estimate that the population of Africa will double. For Ghana, this means that while new economic activities could crop up, the strain on water resources will also increase. Ghana’s situation can only get worse as time goes on if it leaves these issues unchecked.
  8. The African Development Bank calculated that granting universal access to water across Africa would cost $66 billion. This does not even include the $170 billion necessary to create a sustainable infrastructure to keep water supplies high. Officials in the government say that Ghana will need a better allocation of resources to see through possible improvements.

Unless the government receives outside help, however, it may be some time before it acquires any substantial gain in sanitation or water production. This is why these eight facts about Ghana’s water crisis are so important.

Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Enteric and Diarrheal DiseasesEnteric and diarrheal diseases affect 1.7 billion children around the world every year killing over 500,000 children under five annually. The most common enteric and diarrheal diseases are rotavirus, cholera, shigella and typhoid.

Types of Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Rotavirus: Rotavirus is a highly transmittable disease and is one of the main causes of severe diarrhea in children. The disease affects millions of individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in over 215,000 cases. The disease most often transfers via consumption of fecal matter, which can occur when individuals do not have access to proper handwashing and sanitation facilities. The Rotavirus vaccine can help prevent rotavirus. It is effective in preventing severe rotavirus in 90 percent of cases and the WHO has recommended it for use. Typically, children that are two to six months old receive two to three doses of the vaccine. Individuals who do not receive this vaccine and contract rotavirus (or cholera, typhoid, or shigella) most often receive treatment with either zinc supplementation or rehydration therapy or both. Zinc supplementation can reduce the severity of diarrhea in an individual while oral rehydration therapy can help rehydrate an individual that has become dehydrated due to diarrhea.

Cholera: Cholera is another diarrheal illness that individuals can contract by consuming contaminated food or water. It affects roughly three million individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in nearly 145,000 cases. Furthermore, there have been recent outbreaks in countries like Haiti, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Guinea. Like rotavirus, a specialized vaccine can prevent cholera as well as sound sanitation techniques. Individuals older than six receive the vaccine in two doses while younger individuals receive three doses.

Typhoid: Like rotavirus and cholera, typhoid is transmitted through fecal contamination. It affects 22 million people annually and is the cause of death in roughly 200,000 cases per year. Before recently, no one had developed a vaccine to treat typhoid; however, in 2018, the WHO approved a vaccine called Typbar TCV. Scientists from Bharat Biotech International, a biotechnology company based in Hyderabad, India, developed the vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have received the vaccine and it has played a key role in stemming a recent typhoid breakout in Pakistan.

Shigella: The last major form of an enteric/diarrheal disease is shigella. Over 165 million individuals contract shigella every year (causing one million deaths), in large part due to the fact that there is no preventative vaccine for the disease. Because of this, much of the effort that has been given to prevent Shigella recently (as well as rotavirus, cholera and typhoid) have focused on ensuring proper hygiene and sanitation in areas that are at risk for fecal contamination. Listed below are some promising solutions to improve hygiene and sanitation in developing countries around the world.

Solutions to Reduce Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Janicki Omni Processor (JOP): The Janicki Omni Processor is an innovative solution that can help turn waste into clean drinking water. To do so, wet waste enters the JOP which dries and burns the waste in a controlled fashion. The JOP filters and condenses the resulting steam from the burning process, distilling the water. This water then receives treatment in order to meet clean drinking water standards. The JOP is environmentally friendly (the entire process is self-sustainable) and, through heavy funding from NGOs such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is a cheap and efficient way to provide clean water to communities throughout the developing world.

Nano Membrane Toilet: The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution with regards to sanitation practices throughout the developing world. The toilet is sustainable and requires no water or electricity to function. It works like this: after an individual uses it, the toilet utilizes a waterless flushing system to separate the urine from the feces. The feces are then chopped up into small bits and placed into a combustion chamber. After roughly a week, the feces will turn into a substance similar to ash and people can safely deposit it in the trash. The water, meanwhile, enters a separate tank to purify. The purified water then enters a tank at the front of the toilet for the purpose of outdoor irrigation and cleaning. The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution to help reduce feces contamination because it does not require water to function and is easily implementable in many communities around the world.

Hand Washing: Hand washing isn’t a new technology, but it can go a long way towards preventing a multitude of enteric and diarrheal diseases. Research indicates that diarrheal deaths could decrease by as much as 50 percent if the prevalence of handwashing increased around the globe. NGOs such as The Global Handwashing Partnership and World Vision have done great work in recent years to lead handwashing programs in developing nations and increase awareness about the importance of handwashing.

Looking Ahead

The prevention and treatment of individuals with rotavirus, cholera, typhoid and shigella are some of the biggest challenges facing the world in the coming years. The transmittable nature of these diseases makes them difficult to eradicate, and people cannot fix many of the reasons that they are prevalent (lack of sanitation, poor water quality, etc.) overnight. Continued investments from governments and NGOs around the world in promising technologies like the Janicki Omni Processor and the Nano Membrane Toilet are a step in the right direction towards the prevention of enteric and diarrheal diseases in individuals around the world.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pexels

Five Diseases That Thrive in Poor Sanitation
Around 4 billion people in the world lack access to basic sanitation facilities like toilets or latrines and nearly 900 million people still defecate in the open. In addition, USAID estimates that 2.1 billion people currently do not have access to safe drinking water. These dismal conditions pose serious health hazards to the men, women and children living in these communities. Without toilets and latrines to separate human waste from living conditions and water sources, bacteria and virus are easily spread through food, water and direct human contact with waste.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 percent of all deaths worldwide are the result of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio that thrive in unimproved sanitation conditions. This might not sound like a high number, but when considering that these diseases can be relatively easily prevented with inexpensive sanitation and potable water solutions, this percentage sounds absurd. The following list of five waterborne diseases that thrive in poor sanitation provides a glimpse of what is at stake when communities are devoid of proper water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure.

Five Waterborne Diseases that Thrive in Poor Sanitation

  1. Diarrhea causes approximately 480,000 childhood deaths each year. This condition is linked to several viruses, bacteria and protozoans and ultimately depletes a person of water and electrolytes which, for many without oral rehydration solution, leads to death. One of the most important factors in eliminating diarrheal deaths, next to proper sanitation facilities, is handwashing. Something so simple can save lives and stop the cycle of diarrhea.
  2. Cholera is not just a disease from the pages of a history book, it is currently endemic in 51 countries in the world. It is unknown precisely how many deaths are directly the result of this waterborne disease, but WHO estimates that cholera kills from 21,000 to 143, 000 on a yearly basis. Contact with waste from an infected individual either directly or through food and water perpetuates the cycle of infection at an alarming rate. Proper sanitation is currently the first line of defense needed to curb this disease.
  3. Dysentery can be caused by either bacteria or an amoeba and presents an infection of the intestines. Fortunately, dysentery is usually cleared up on its own without treatment. However, this disease can be easily spread throughout communities without a system to separate waste from food and water.
  4. From 11 to 20 million people are infected with typhoid fever every year, causing up to 161,000 deaths on yearly basis. Typhoid fever is a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria Salmonella Typhi through contaminated food or water and sometimes from direct contact with someone who is infected. Unlike many waterborne diseases, antibiotics and new vaccines can provide treatment and limited immunity. Yet, without proper water, sanitation and hygiene typhoid infection will persist and antibiotic-immune typhoid will spread which will make treatment of the disease more complicated.
  5. Polio transmission has significantly decreased over the past 30 years thanks to aggressive, worldwide immunization. Still, the threat of infection continues to spread as a direct result of poor sanitation. Poliovirus is spread when humans come into contact with the virus from human excreta or poliovirus that survives in the wild. Polio is close to being eradicated and providing sanitation to the areas where the disease persists is imperative if the world hopes to one-day be polio-free.

Strategies to Eradicate Waterborne Diseases

Efforts to control these five waterborne diseases that thrive in poor sanitation come from both government and international aid organizations. There is also a concerted effort to implement strategy and resources to address the need for clean water and sanitation.

On the strategy front, a 2013 call to action from the U.N. Deputy Secretary-General on sanitation that included the elimination of open defecation by 2025, the sixth Sustainable Development Goal that aims ensure clean water and sanitation for all as well as numerous global guidelines and action plans for water and waste management set forth by WHO, UNICEF and partners are paving the way for large-scale change.

Meanwhile, in terms of providing resources, some examples include USAID’s country-based programs between 2012 and 2017 that supplied potable water to 12.2 million people worldwide. Numerous companies are partnering with large development organizations to develop their own campaigns or are developing products like LifeStraw, Life Sack and PeePoople that provide immediate potable water and sanitation solutions to millions around the world. These examples, in addition to new vaccines, antibiotics and other disease-specific campaigns are working together to eliminate the threats posed by unimproved sanitation and to eradicate waterborne diseased that are taking the lives of millions of people across the globe.

– Sarah Fodero

Photo: Flickr

Outbreaks in the Eastern Mediterranean Region
Cholera, MERS and influenza continue to devastate the Eastern Mediterranean Region. This region, found near the Mediterranean Sea, consists of the Levant, the Middle East and North Africa. Fortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) monitors and records these outbreaks in the Eastern Mediterranean Region in order to better understand epidemic trends.

Each epidemic consists of different symptoms that can be lethal if the individual does not undergo proper treatment. Unfortunately, a majority of the countries within the Eastern Mediterranean Region lack access to the medication and proper public health infrastructure necessary to combat these epidemics. As a result, cholera, MERS and influenza are major public health problems that affect a large population of citizens.

Defining Cholera

Cholera is a bacterial disease spread through contaminated drinking water or food. Symptoms consist of diarrhea and dehydration, and if cholera is left untreated, the symptoms could worsen to seizures and, ultimately, lead to death.

Cholera is quite common among developing states due to a lack of sanitation and infrastructural advancements. Somalia, a country in Africa, is consistently faced with cholera outbreaks. In fact, the last outbreak was August 23, 2018, in which the Ministry of Health discovered 39 new cases since August 16 of that same year. They found that approximately 72 percent of new cases were children under the age of five, and in August 2018, the Ministry of Health recorded 230 cholera cases overall.

The number of cases per week continue to fluctuate, with some weeks showing 151 to 344 new cases. Yemen, which is located South of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, possesses the world’s worst outbreak with approximately 220,000 cases reported as of 2017. BBC reports that 1,300 people have died, with 25 percent being children. Now, there are about 10,000 suspected cases weekly, and numbers are expected to rise.

These statistics are disheartening, yet the World Health Organization is helping to decrease cholera. The WHO has a Global Task Force on cholera control in this region. This task force has led to initiatives — such as the launch of the Cholera Kits — which prepare families for an upcoming outbreak for the first month, decreasing their chances of contracting the illness. WHO has also planned “Ending Cholera: A Global Roadmap to 2030,” which will monitor water sources, administer vaccinations and construct sanitary networks and healthcare systems. They have also given families in hotspots the oral cholera vaccine.

Impacts of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is a respiratory illness with symptoms such as fever, cough, dizziness and shortness of breath. This disease can be fatal if not treated correctly. MERS is extremely rare within industrialized countries, yet it does frequently occur in developing countries.

Saudi Arabia is one of the many victims of the MERS outbreak, and astonishingly accounts for 83.2 percent of new cases. The World Health Organization reports that Saudi Arabia had 1861 new cases of MERS in July 2018, and about 719 of those individuals died, which makes the fatality rate 38.6 percent. The fatality rate increased by 3.1 percent since June 2018.

MERS is an epidemic with devastating impacts on society; thankfully, WHO is learning more about this illness through international and local conventions that discuss implementation goals and research. Recently, the WHO hosted a convention in which scientists, doctors and researchers discussed the outbreak of MERS.

They delved into the correlation between human and animal health, research projects/initiatives and preventative methods. The disease was only discovered in 2012 so there is still a lot the world does not know about MERS, but thankfully, organizations like WHO are continually making efforts to understand the epidemic.

Ramifications of Influenza

Influenza is a viral infection transmitted through contaminated surfaces, contact and saliva. Its symptoms include fever, cough, congestion, fatigue and muscle aches. Influenza is one of the outbreaks in the Eastern Mediterranean Region dependent upon seasonal changes and is a common global phenonmenon. Despite its preventability and treatability in developed countries, in other parts of the world, it can be deadly — especially among high-risk groups.

Egypt, Qatar and Iraq were the only countries that reported a high-level of influenza activity —  each reported a higher rate of the H1N1 strain. The number of cases of influenza continue to decrease, particularly in the month of July, and WHO continues to help decrease the number of influenza cases through research improvements. WHO continues to monitor influenza and its strains while also creating the “Global Influenza Surveillance & Response System” in order to teach states how to prepare for influenza.

They have given the Eastern Mediterranean Region technical support in order to better responses to influenza, and also funded projects to better influenza treatment — such as building new, advanced laboratories and upgrading surveillance programs in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Populations.

Preventative Measures

Although the outbreaks are devastating, the World Health Organization perservers in its fight against outbreaks in the Eastern Mediterranean Region through inter-organizational collaboration, science conventions and advanced surveillance programs. With groups like WHO actively researching and collecting data, the progress in preventing cholera, MERS and influenza is an ever-increasing occurrence.

Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Good News in Global HealthCholera impacts 2.9 million people each year, killing about 95,000 in some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities of many Asian, African, and some Caribbean countries. The good news in global health is that the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC) is bringing together more than 50 partners from academic institutions and nonprofits to reduce cholera by 90 percent by 2030.

This alliance includes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, Water Aid and Doctors Without Borders. This plan was released to the public in October 2017 in Geneva.

GTFCC is hosted by the World Health Organization and has begun with a strategy called Ending Cholera: A Global Roadmap to 2030. This proposal has three strategic axes to make this goal possible.

First, the GTFCC would work to look for early signs of cholera and by sending a quick response in efforts to halt the spread of the disease. Country-level planning would also go into effect for early detection and response.

Second, these partners would improve the Water Sanitation and Hygiene concept, or WASH. The U.N. recognizes WASH as a basic human right. However, more than two billion people worldwide lack access to WASH.

Improving oral vaccines would also be a part of the second plan to end cholera. Between 2013 and 2016, the GTFCC administered five million doses of the cholera vaccine. Gavi is an international vaccination organization focused on children, and it is funding these vaccines.

Lastly, this strategy will be an effective system of coordination for technical support, resource mobilization and partnership at local and global levels. It will work to strengthen donors and international agencies, while locally, partnerships with be strengthened between affected countries.

While this plan will be carried out by all the NGOs and academic institutions, the Global Task Force on Cholera Control will be providing a strong framework for support to ensure this roadmap to ending cholera deaths by 2030 is executed in a timely manner, which is good news in global health.

Lorial Roballo

Polio EradicationAround 30 years ago, 350,000 people annually were disabled by polio. Since then, the disease has been reduced globally by 99.9 percent. Only eight new cases were reported this year. Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan are the three remaining countries where polio exists. Nonetheless, governments and non-profits continue to work toward polio eradication, with some experts believing the disease could be eradicated as soon as 2020.

In June 2017, at Rotary International’s annual convention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International jointly announced their pledge of $450 million toward polio eradication. At the same time, world governments and other donors pledged a total of $1.2 billion to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

GPEI is a collaborative effort among Rotary International, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and UNICEF to combat polio.

The good news continued in August of this year when the United Kingdom announced that they would be pledging £100 million to the fight against polio. This funding will provide immunizations to 45 million children per year until 2020.

Though prior to this summer there was a funding gap of $1.5 billion for polio eradication, that shortfall has now been reduced to $170 million due to the contributions of Rotary International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom as well as others.

While the focus now is on the three countries where polio still exists, the GPEI and its partner organizations still monitor polio in other at-risk countries.

Although the United Nations declared Somalia polio free, President Farmaajo stated that vaccination campaigns remain crucial. He noted that Somalia is still vulnerable and that polio eradication in Somalia “…was [a] collective effort and commitment by many young men and women who sacrificed their lives.”

The infrastructure built to combat polio in Somalia continues to be used to respond to other outbreaks including measles and cholera. Polio also tends to infect regions marred in conflict. In 2013, there were polio outbreaks in Central Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. The GPEI managed to end the outbreaks less than a year later.

Nigeria, one of the three countries on the endemic list, was taken off the list at one point after two years with no reported cases. Soon after, four children were paralyzed by polio in northern Nigeria. In response, the GPEI strengthened its polio surveillance operations.

It takes three years with no reported cases of a disease for it to be declared eradicated. Smallpox is the only eradicated disease in history. The United Kingdom International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, stated that, “The world is closer than it has ever been to eradicating polio, but as long as just one case exists in the world, children everywhere are still at risk.”

Due to the contributions of multiple governmental and non-governmental organizations, polio eradication is an achievable goal for the international community.

Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr