Tuesday July 23, 2019

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

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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Strains of Malaria Resistant to Two Key Anti-Malarial Medicines Becoming More Dominant in Southeast Asia

Strains of malaria resistant to two key anti-malarial medicines are becoming more dominant in Vietnam

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Malaria, Medicine, Asia
FILE - Children living in the Thai-Myanmar border come to a malaria clinic to get tested in Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, Oct. 26, 2012. VOA

Strains of malaria resistant to two key anti-malarial medicines are becoming more dominant in Vietnam, Laos and northern Thailand after spreading rapidly from Cambodia, scientists warned Monday.

Using genomic surveillance to track the spread of drug-resistant, the scientists found that the strain, known as KEL1/PLA1, has also evolved and picked up new genetic mutations which may make it yet more resistant to drugs.

“We discovered [it] had spread aggressively, replacing local parasites, and had become the dominant strain in Vietnam, Laos and northeastern Thailand,” said Roberto Amato, who worked with a team from Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute and Oxford University and Thailand’s Mahidol University.

It is caused by Plasmodium parasites which are carried by mosquitoes and spread through their blood-sucking bites.

Malaria, Medicine, Asia
FILE – Village malaria worker Phoun Sokha, 47, shows his malaria medicine kit at O’treng village on the outskirts of Pailin, Cambodia, Aug. 29, 2009. VOA

Almost 220 million people were infected with malaria in 2017, according to World Health Organization estimates, and the disease killed 400,000 of them. The vast majority of cases and deaths are among babies and children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Malaria can be successfully treated with medicines if it’s caught early enough, but resistance to anti-malarial drugs is growing in many parts of the world, especially in Southeast Asia.

The first-line treatment for malaria in many parts of Asia in the last decade has been a combination of dihydroartemisinin and piperaquine, also known as DHA-PPQ. Researchers found in previous work that a strain of malaria had evolved and spread across Cambodia between 2007 and 2013. This latest research, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found it has crossed borders and tightened its grip.

“The speed at which these resistant malaria parasites have spread in Southeast Asia is very worrying,” said Olivo Miotto, who co-led the work.

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“Other drugs may be effective at the moment, but the situation is extremely fragile and this study highlights that urgent action is needed,” he said. (VOA)