Saturday November 17, 2018

323 Million at Risk of Deadly Diseases from Dirty Water in Asia, Africa and Latin America, says UN Environment Program

It's estimated that up to 164 million people in Africa, 134 million in Asia and 25 million in Latin America were at risk of infection from the diseases

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FILE - A China Railway bullet train travels above a river polluted by leaked fuel in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, April 29, 2015. Image source: VOA
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More than 300 million people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are at risk of life-threatening diseases like cholera and typhoid because of the increasing pollution of water in rivers and lakes, the U.N. Environment Program said Tuesday.

Between 1990 and 2010, pollution caused by viruses, bacteria, and other micro-organisms, and long-lasting toxic pollutants like fertilizer or petrol, increased in more than half of rivers across the three continents, while salinity levels rose in nearly a third, UNEP said in a report.

Population growth, expansion of agriculture and an increased amount of raw sewage released into rivers and lakes were among the main reasons behind the increase of surface water pollution, putting 323 million people at risk of infection, UNEP said.

“The water quality problem at a global scale and the number of people affected by bad water quality are much more severe than we expected,” Dietrich Borchardt, lead author of the report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

However, a significant number of rivers remain in good condition and need to be protected, he said by phone from Germany.

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About a quarter of rivers in Latin America, 10 percent to 25 percent in Africa and up to 50 percent in Asia were affected by severe pathogen pollution, largely caused by discharging untreated wastewater into rivers and lakes, the report said.

Millions of deaths yearly

About 3.4 million people die each year from diseases or conditions such as cholera, typhoid, polio or diarrhea, which are associated with pathogens in water, UNEP said.

It’s estimated that up to 164 million people in Africa, 134 million in Asia and 25 million in Latin America were at risk of infection from the diseases.

It said building more sewers was not enough to prevent infections and deaths, adding that the solution was to treat wastewater.

Organic pollution, which can cause water to be completely starved of oxygen, affects one of every seven kilometers of rivers (0.6 mile of every 4.4 miles) in Latin America, Africa and Asia, threatening freshwater fisheries, UNEP said.

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Severe and moderate salinity levels, caused by the disposal of salty water from mines, irrigation systems, and homes, affect one in 10 rivers on the three continents, making it harder for poor farmers to irrigate their crops, it said.

The trend of worsening water pollution was “critical,” Borchardt said.

“It is much more expensive to clean up surface water from severe pollution than to implement proper management, which includes prevention of pollution,” he said. “Tools are available but the challenge is to implement them.” (VOA)

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Thousands of Africans Fatally Affected Due To Fake Drugs

In Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies.

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Drugs, Africa
A street vendor sells illegal and false drugs in a street of Adjame in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. VOA

When Moustapha Dieng came down with stomach pains one day last month he did the sensible thing and went to a doctor in his hometown of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, Africa.

The doctor prescribed a malaria treatment but the medicine cost too much for Dieng, a 30-year-old tailor, so he went to an unlicensed street vendor for pills on the cheap.

“It was too expensive at the pharmacy. I was forced to buy street drugs as they are less expensive,” he said. Within days he was hospitalized — sickened by the very drugs that were supposed to cure him.

Africa
Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods. Pixabay

Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication, an E.U.-funded report released on Tuesday said. The drugs are mainly made in China but also in India, Paraguay, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

Almost half the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) between 2013 and 2017 were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa, said the report, also backed by Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies.

“Counterfeiters prey on poorer countries more than their richer counterparts, with up to 30 times greater penetration of fakes in the supply chain,” said the report.

Substandard or fake anti-malarials cause the deaths of between 64,000 and 158,000 people per year in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

Africa
Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ – mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers.

The counterfeit drug market is worth around $200 billion worldwide annually, WHO says, making it the most lucrative trade of illegally copied goods. Its impact has been devastating.

Nigeria said more than 80 children were killed in 2009 by a teething syrup tainted with a chemical normally used in engine coolant and blamed for causing kidney failure.

For Dieng, the cost can be measured in more than simple suffering. The night in hospital cost him more than double what he would have paid had he bought the drugs the doctor ordered.

“After taking those drugs, the provenance of which we don’t know, he came back with new symptoms … All this had aggravated his condition,” said nurse Jules Raesse, who treated Dieng when he stayed at the clinic last month.

Fake drugs also threaten a thriving pharmaceutical sector in several African countries.

Africa
Misuse of antibiotic drugs have lead to the threat of antimicrobial resistance, Pixabay

That has helped prompt Ivory Coast – where fake drugs were also sold openly – to crack down on the trade, estimated at $30 billion by Reuters last year.

Ivorian authorities said last month they had seized almost 400 tonnes of fake medicine over the past two years.

Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods, had they been sold to consumers, would have represented a loss to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry of more than $170 million.

“They are reputed to be cheaper, but at best they are ineffective and at worst toxic,” Abderrahmane Chakibi, Managing Director of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi’s sub-Saharan Africa branch.

Also Read: Trump Presents Proposal To Lower the Price of Specific Drugs

But in Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies, which often only stock expensive drugs imported from France, rather than cheaper generics from places like India.

“When you have no means you are forced to go out onto the street,” said Barakissa Cherik, a pharmacist in Ivory Coast’s lagoon-side commercial capital Abidjan. (VOA)