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facts about malaria
Though malaria has been eradicated from the United States and Europe, the disease continues to plague many countries, including those in South America, Africa and Asia. As one of the large concerns of the World Health Organization, fighting malaria has come to the forefront of the global health field. Below are 10 facts about malaria that are essential to know, some of which demonstrate why global eradication of the disease is in the best interest of all nations.

1. Malaria is caused by one of four plasmodium protist carried by the female Anopheles mosquito.
2. One of the problems of combating malaria is the threat of drug-resistant plasmodium, particularly in the Southeast Asian Mekong River area.
3. Nearly half of the world’s population — 3.4 billion people — are at risk for contracting malaria in over 106 countries.
4. In 2010, over 91 percent of malarial deaths occurred in Africa.
5. Since 2000, the overall mortality rate has decreased by 42 percent.
6. Despite the eradication of malaria in the United States in the 1950s, three types of malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes are still found in various regions, meaning malaria could recur.
7. Approximately 1,500 cases of malaria are reported annually in the United States. The statistic is mostly comprised of travelers and immigrants.
8. The symptoms of malaria generally appear a week or more after an infected mosquito bite, but without treatment, certain plasmodia can become deadly in less than 24 hours after initial symptoms.
9. The World Health Assembly’s targets for 2015 are to reduce malarial infections by 75 percent. Only 52 countries are on target to reach this goal.
10. The World Health Organization has created a T3 plan for tracking malaria: Test. Treat. Track Initiative.

While these facts about malaria may demonstrate a need for unified effort to combat the disease, awareness of the prevalence of the disease is still somewhat limited. Since it is treatable, though sometimes aggressive, the battle against malaria is crucial to increase life expectancy and eliminate poverty. The multinational cooperation to eliminate the disease just emphasizes the scale of global importance of addressing malaria.

— Kristin Ronzi

Sources: CDC, WHO
Photo: Tracking Elephants

meningitis
Nearly 1,153,000 people were reached with meningitis vaccines in eastern Guinea during a campaign by the Guinean government, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization and other partners.

The campaign lasted six days, finishing over the weekend of June 14, and vaccinated over 95 percent of the people between the ages of 1 and 29 in the affected areas of Mandiana and Siguiri.

Guinea is located in the “meningitis belt” which stretches west from Senegal to Ethiopia in the east, and has the highest rates of meningococcal meningitis.

Since January of 2014 there have been 539 suspected cases of meningitis and 52 deaths in Guinea, with an estimated 400 cases last year. The vaccination campaign was completed in hopes that it will end the outbreak that has emerged in the eastern region of Guinea.

Meningitis is a disease that mostly affects children, teens and young adults, and is transmitted from person to person through respiratory or throat secretions. When contracted, the disease causes the protective tissue around the brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges, to become inflamed.

The bacterial form, meningococcal meningitis, affects the brain membrane, which has the potential to cause serious brain damage, and if untreated, is fatal in 50 percent of cases. The most notable symptoms are high fever, stiff neck, headaches, sensitivity to light and vomiting.

Spokesman for UNICEF in Guinea, Timothy La Rose, stresses the value of community education and awareness about the importance of receiving vaccines. Through rural radio and community sensitization, UNICEF educates the population about the dangers that meningitis poses to children and where vaccination centers are located.

UNICEF hopes to provide another set of vaccinations later this year to continue to keep the outbreak under control and protect the children and young adults of Guinea.

— Kim Tierney 

Sources: Voice of America, UNICEF, WHO

Poliovirus Spreads to Equatorial Guinea
The Polio Global Eradication Initiative announced that “a new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) case was reported in Equatorial Guinea” on April 16 2014.  The country has reported three known cases and due to the genetic sequencing of the virus, health officials believe the virus spread from neighboring country, Cameroon.

This poliovirus outbreak contradicts Equatorial Guinea’s statistics in previous years. The UNICEF Annual Report 2012 for Guinea Bissau declared, “Guinea Bissau has been “polio-free” since 2009…due to vaccination campaigns through child health days and strengthened routine immunization.” According to NPR’s article “Polio Hits Equatorial Guinea, Threatens Central Africa” report, however, the country currently has a vaccination rate of only 39 percent, suggesting that routine immunization programs have decreased since 2009.

Similarly, in Cameroon, the origin of this outbreak, the World Health Organization calculated that 40 percent of children are inadequately vaccinated against the poliovirus. Immunization prevents the spread of the poliovirus, which is an infectious disease with no cure that can cause permanent paralysis. It is communicable via person-to-person contact. Children under the age of 5 are especially susceptible to contracting the virus, making proper immunization campaigns are essential to elimination of an outbreak.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), from January 2014 to April 2014 ten countries reported a total of 61 polio cases.  When an outbreak of the poliovirus began in Cameroon in October 2013, the country conducted immunization campaigns in response. On March 17 2014, however, Cameroon confirmed new cases of the poliovirus.  In the WHO’s “Poliovirus in Cameroon update”, the WHO elevated “the risk assessment of international spread of polio from Cameroon to very high.” Despite the organization’s attempt to contain the outbreak, the poliovirus spread to Equatorial Guinea.

In an April 24, 2014 UNICEF news note, UNICEF Representative in Equatorial Guinea, Dr. Brandão Có, stated, “Stopping the transmission of polio in Equatorial Guinea is a key priority in order to ensure children, families and communities are protected against this terrible and crippling disease that also has enormous social costs.” UNICEF also reported that a campaign to vaccinate 300,000 children against the virus commenced on April 24, 2014.

— Jaclyn Ambrecht

Sources: NPR, Polio Global Eradication Initiative,, UNICEF(1), UNICEF(2), World Health Organization

UN flags
“We the Peoples of the United Nations determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of the men and women and of nations large and small,” the UN Charter.

Over 60 years ago an organization with a mission to bring peace to the world was born. Rightfully called the United Nations, this organization started with just a handful of nations, though now well over one hundred countries have signed up to accept the pledge of peace.

Here are some quick facts about the UN, present and past:

  1. 51 countries founded the UN in 1945.
  2. The UN’s mission is to maintain peace, security, develop friendly relations with other nations, promote social growth and advocate for human rights.
  3. New York City houses the UN’s headquarters. Three other main offices reside in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna.
  4. The UN is comprised of six main sections: The General Assembly, The Security Council, The Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat and the United Nations Trustee Council.
  5. The original members of the UN were Russia, USA, France and the UK. These four along with the Republic of China hold five permanent seats on the Security Council.
  6. A few agencies established by the UN are the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization (WHO), The World Food Program, UNESCO and UNICEF.
  7. The current leaders of the UN are :
    • Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (South Korea)
    • Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson (Sweden)
    • General Assembly President John William Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda)
    • Secretary Council President Gerald Araud (France)
  8. Each nation must sign the UN charter in order to join the United Nations. The Charter consists of two preambles and a series of articles.
  9. When war breaks out in a country, the UN sends peace keeping soldiers to help resolve the conflict. These soldiers are also called “Blue Helmets.”
  10. There are, currently, 183 member nations in the UN.
  11. The UN was initially established to prevent a repeat of World War II.
  12. The UN’s motto: It’s your world.
  13. Over 120,00 peacekeepers from the UN maintain civility on 4 continents.

– Amy Robinson

Sources: Wikipedia, Fun Trivia, United Nations, UNFPA
Photo: Flickr