Monday December 11, 2017

Fighting Cholera Urgent Part of Haiti’s Hurricane Recovery, say Doctors

Cholera is treatable, and the most common and dangerous symptom is dehydration

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The daughter of 84-year-old Armant Germain replaces the sheets on her bed, in the cholera ward at a hospital in Les Cayes Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA

October 12, 2016: As Haiti continues to count its dead and assess damage following devastating Hurricane Matthew, doctors and public health officers warn the risk of cholera must urgently be addressed.

Unprecedented flooding, particularly in the hard-hit southwestern peninsula, has contaminated already-scarce safe drinking water, drastically increasing the risk of a cholera outbreak. Once contracted, dehydration caused by cholera can kill children in as quickly as six hours.

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“Essentially, the battle against cholera is sometimes a race against time,” said Dr. Unni Krishnan of Save the Children. “It’s a very fast killer and we need to act quickly.”

Dr. Krishnan has worked around Haiti for 10 years, travelling to wherever he is most needed. He is currently working in Les Cayes, the city the hardest hit last week by Hurricane Matthew.

“When you come to some of the impacted areas you realise how bad the situation is,” he told VOA. “It’s something which can never be truly captured in words or pictures.”

A worker prepares serum at a cholera center in Anse D'Hainault, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA
A worker prepares serum at a cholera center in Anse D’Hainault, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA

Contaminated drinking water

Contamination of drinking water is far from the only thing increasing the risk of cholera throughout Haiti.

Among many others, Dr. Krishnan said a lack of privacy due to destroyed homes has resulted in women breast feeding less often, and breast milk is a powerful natural antidote to cholera for infants.

Cholera is treatable, and the most common and dangerous symptom is dehydration. But lack of infrastructure and hospitals, made worse by the hurricane damage, could make combating an epidemic difficult for Haiti.

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“For context, we are talking about a country with one of the weakest health systems in this part of the world,” Dr. Krishnan said, emphasising that many medical centres were destroyed or rendered non-functional due to the storm damage.

The hope for Haiti in the face of cholera lies in lessons learned, following a 2010 earthquake, after which Haiti suffered the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, according to the Center for Disease Control. Nearly 10,000 people in Haiti died of the treatable disease.

The international community bears the burden as well. The U.N. publicly took responsibility for bringing Virbrio cholerae, the bacteria which causes cholera, through Nepalese peacekeepers who went to the island nation following the earthquake.

United Nations police from Bangladesh deliver drinking water to residents of Sous-Roche village, outside Les Cayes, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA
United Nations police from Bangladesh deliver drinking water to residents of Sous-Roche village, outside Les Cayes, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA

New UN measures

A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the U.N. needs to do “much more” to address the cholera epidemic in Haiti, and promised a “significant new set of U.N. actions” to respond to the crisis, probably in two months or less. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization announced it is sending one million doses of oral cholera vaccine to Haiti.

Vaccinating all 10 million Haitians on the island would cost over $100 million, according to the American Council on Science and Health.

“That said, when you break something in a store, you have to buy it,” Dr. Julianna LeMieux of ACSH wrote on their website. “It’s time for the international body to give its health experts the financial support they need to correct the catastrophe it created.”

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While Dr. Krishnan did not specifically call out one organization to bear responsibility for the crisis, he urged the international community to be aware of how complex and dire the situation on the ground is.

“Haiti needs all the attention and support it can get now,” he said. (VOA)

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Civil War, Cholera and Severe Food Shortage Make Yemen World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisis ; UN calls it ‘Man-made Catastrophe’

Un Human Rights' Agency report asserts that the catastrophe is entirely man-made and a direct result of the behavior of the parties to the conflict.

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People inspect the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition targeted Yemen's capital early on Friday, hitting at least three houses in Sanaa and killing at least 14 civilians, including women and children, residents and eyewitnesses said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed) (VOA)
  • UN report asserts that the sufferings of people after years of civil war in Yemen are man-made
  • The report asserts that Yemen is in the grip of conflict, cholera and severe food shortages
  • According to the U.N. Human Rights Agency, more than 10 million people are in acute need of health care

Geneva, September 6, 2017 : The United Nations calls suffering endured by millions of people after more than two years of civil war in Yemen an entirely man-made catastrophe.

The world body reports there have been more than 11,700 civilians killed or injured in the civil war in Yemen, since the Saudi Arabian coalition began airstrikes against Houthi rebels in support of the government in March 2015. It blames more than 8,000 of the casualties on the coalition and more than 3,700 on the Houthis.

The report says conflict, cholera and severe food shortages have made Yemen the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. Human Rights Agency’s Chief of Middle East and North Africa, Mohammad Ali Ainsour, says Yemen’s 18.8. million people need humanitarian aid and more than 10 million are in acute need of health care.

Civil war in Yemen
A woman helps her son as he lies on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen. VOA

“The catastrophe is entirely man-made and a direct result of the behavior of the parties to the conflict, including indiscriminate attacks,” said Ainsour. “We have seen attacks on markets, residential areas, hospitals, schools, funeral gatherings and even fishermen and small civilian boats at sea.”

The report says civilians may have been directly targeted in some cases. The report documents a wide range of continuing human rights violations and abuses. It expresses concern at the increasing number of arbitrary or illegal detentions and forced disappearances of human rights defenders, religious leaders, journalists, and political opponents.

Ainsour says there are at least 1,700 cases of child recruitment, most by Houthi forces and 20 percent by pro-government forces.

“OHCHR [the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] monitors frequently observed children as young as 10, who were armed and uniformed and manning Houthi … checkpoints,” said Ainsour.

U.N. Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is repeating his call for an end to the fighting and for an independent, international investigation to be established. He says it is crucial to hold to account perpetrators of violations and abuse. (VOA)

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UNICEF Calls for Action : 16 Million Children Continue to Suffer as Floods in South Asia Claim More than 1,300 Lives

According to data released by UNICEF, the unusually heavy monsoon over the last several weeks has claimed more than 1,300 lives across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

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floods in south asia
India army soldiers carry children rescued from flood affected villages near Thara in Banaskantha district, Gujarat, India (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki) (VOA)
  • Floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh have claimed more than 1,300 lives in the last two months
  • According to UNICEF, over 16 million children in the three countries are in urgent need of life-saving support
  • Persistent rainfall has damaged school infrastructure, apart from depriving children of safe places to stay at, and necessities like drinking water and food

New Delhi, September 4, 2017 : Hurricane Harvey created havoc in Houston in August, claiming 15 lives and displacing tens of thousands of people. The event was largely covered by national and international media alike, keeping people abreast with the latest updates. However, the floods in South Asia, which are equally devastating, are yet to receive due coverage from international media. According to data released by UNICEF, the unusually heavy monsoon over the last several weeks has claimed more than 1,300 lives across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In its entirety, over 45 million people have suffered the direct impact of the rains and its resulting floods.

Floods in South Asia

For over two months, incessant rains have submerged numerous villages thereby forcing vast numbers of people into evacuation centers and relief camps.

According to a UN Agency report, over 16 million children residing in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh are in dire need of life-saving support due to weeks of torrential monsoons that have given rise to ‘catastrophic’ floods in the three South Asian countries.

UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Jean Gough noted that millions of children have already been affected by these devastating floods as incessant rains continue to pose potential threat.  “Children have lost their homes, schools, and even friends and loved ones. There is a danger the worst could still be to come as rains continue and flood waters move south,” she added, according to a report by PTI.

According to official figures, at least 1,288 deaths have been reported since mid-August.

Gough believes the persistent rainfall and the resulting water accumulation have damaged school infrastructure among other things which will hamper children from attending classes for weeks, or even months. According to her, “Getting children back into school is absolutely critical in establishing a sense of stability for children during times of crisis and provides a sense of normality when everything else is being turned upside down”

Among other urgent needs of these children are clean drinking water, sufficient food supplies, hygiene supplies to control and combat the spread of potential diseases and safe evacuation places for the children to stay at, study and play.

ALSO READ Thousands displaced in Myanmar due to floods

Devastation from floods in India

According to a report by PTI, in the northern part of the country, over 31 million people have been affected in four states due to the extensive flooding. Out of this, 12.33 million sufferers are believed to be children.

The tally of houses damaged by the floods has reached 805,183 while 15,455 schools have been damaged, that has disrupted the education of children.

Additionally, the heavy downpour in Mumbai has already claimed five deaths due to drowning while twelve people, including two children have died due to the collapse of a building.

ALSO READ Why do buildings collapse?

Rescue operations are being undertaken in these states by their respective state governments, which include carrying out relief, recovery and rehabilitation operations.

Furthermore, the state governments have also sought multi-sectoral planning and coordination support from UNICEF in the three worst affected states. These include Bihar, Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

Devastation from floods in Bangladesh

According to Oxfam, with the rising water levels, the flooding is believed to be the worst since 1988 with nearly two-thirds of the country currently submerged under water.

More than 8 million people are reported to have been hit by the floods in Bangladesh, out of which 3 million are allegedly children. Primary and community educational institutions across the country have been terribly hit with as many as 2,292 schools reportedly damaged by the high water.

The country has also reported over 13,035 cases of water-borne diseases.

Devastation from floods in Nepal

Floods in Nepal have displaced 352,738 people from their homes, thus, affecting over 1.7 million people. The water has reportedly surfaced to dangerous levels, to escape which people are making use of makeshift rafts and elephants for rescue operations.

According to a report by PTI, damage to nearly 1,958 schools has affected the education of over 253,605 children.

Major media giants across the world are pledging their support to help combat the scale of  destruction.

In a blog post, Google Vice-President of South East Asia and India wrote, “We are committing $1 million from Google.org and Google employees to Goonj and Save the Children for their relief efforts.”

The NGO, Goonj aims to offer assistance to over 75,000 affected families across India and provide them with basic needs like food, blankets and hygiene supply while on the other hand, Save the Children is focused on setting up child-friendly public spaces for the children to have access to educational material.

Similar organizations have taken up an active role to help rebuild infrastructure for the community like roads, bridges and physical infrastructures.

What causes floods in South Asia?

Apart from the high magnitude of rainfall received this year, the floods in south Asia are believed to have been aggravated by human actions such as reckless construction on floodplains and in the coastal areas, waterways clogged by garbage and a faulty drainage system

According to a report published by VOA, experts have pointed out the inefficiency of the governments of the three countries and have said that is has become increasingly evident that the South Asian governments were unprepared for the annual monsoon showers.

However, disaster management officials also assert that it will be unfair to criticize the governments in view of the magnitude of the floods this year.


 

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)