Saturday November 18, 2017

Why Cholera Still Kills in Haiti? Dirty Job and Unhygienic Environment likely to be the prime Causes

The country's first wastewater treatment facility, opened in 2012 north of Port-au-Prince with international money, closed two years ago because authorities lack the money to operate it

Haiti workers
Workers in Haiti suffer from cholera due to unhealthy environment, Pixabay

 The men strip off their clothes, wrap themselves in rags and plug their nostrils with tobacco to hide the stench. They squeeze into a cramped outhouse with a reeking pit to scoop buckets of human excrement with their bare hands.

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It’s just another night’s work for this four-man team of “bayakou” — the Haitian waste cleaners who take to the streets at night doing a miserable, indispensable job that creates such social scorn that few admit they do it at all.

“The hardest part is going into the pit. You have to get used to it,” said crew boss Auguste Augustin as his shoeless team worked by candlelight, filling sacks with human waste to be loaded into a wheelbarrow and dumped before sunrise.

The pit latrine cleaners form the lowest ranks of a primitive sanitation system that is largely responsible for the fierce persistence of cholera in this country since it was introduced to the country’s largest river in October 2010 by sewage from a base of U.N. peacekeepers. Haiti still relies mostly on crude methods of waste disposal that have crippled its ability to combat a water-borne illness that can cause diarrhea so severe that victims can die of dehydration in hours if they don’t get treatment. It has sickened roughly 800,000 people and killed at least 9,500.

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U.N. critics

The U.N., which this month acknowledged not doing enough to help the country fight cholera while stopping short of an admission of responsibility for introducing it, has announced a new fundraising plan to battle the easily treatable disease. It seeks to raise $400 million from U.N. member states, with the first $200 million dedicated in large part to treating patients with care like oral rehydration fluids, while promoting improvements in hygiene by distributing supplies like chlorine and soap. Improving water, sanitation and health systems are also stated goals of this first phase.

But critics say the U.N. has failed to consistently focus on the long-term problem — how Haitians dispose of their waste and get their water. What’s needed, critics say, are sustained investments in infrastructure that would prevent fecal matter from contaminating water supplies and continuing the cycle of disease.

“The $200 million for cholera control is desperately needed to stop deaths from cholera, and must be followed by robust efforts to put in the clean water and sanitation that will fully eliminate the disease,” said Beatrice Lindstrom, a lawyer with the nonprofit Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Lack of sewage treatment

There’s hardly any sewage treatment in Haiti more than six years after the worst epidemic of cholera in recent history began here. In a country where flush toilets are used by less than 10 percent of the population, millions of poor Haitians defecate in fields and gullies, dispose of their waste in plastic bags they throw into vacant lots, or use pit latrines that get emptied by bayakou for a fee.

The country’s first wastewater treatment facility, opened in 2012 north of Port-au-Prince with international money, closed two years ago because authorities lack the money to operate it. Another plant with lagoons to break down waste in nearby Morne-a-Cabrit is operating below capacity. There are three smaller sites in the rest of country of over 10 million people, but they are semi-operational at best.

Paul Christian Namphy, a coordinator with Haiti’s under-resourced Water and Sanitation Authority, estimates the Morne-a-Cabrit plant, which charges septic haulers a disposal fee of $2.50 per cubic meter, receives 10 percent of the human waste generated in Port-au-Prince’s metropolitan area.

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The United Nations is now pressing member states to ramp up donations to fund the latest initiative to fight cholera in Haiti.

“I want enough cash in the bank so that we can be sure of being able to have this response capacity right through into 2018. Then we can really get this outbreak right down, numbers really small,” David Nabarro, a special adviser to the U.N.’s secretary-general, said in a statement. “And then if we combine it with water supplies and sanitation for every Haitian, cholera will go.”

Bacteria’s adaptation

Complicating matters is that the cholera bacteria, previously unknown in the country, has adapted to waterways and become endemic in the country. Once that has occurred, in general, “it’s really difficult although not impossible to eradicate,” said Afsar Ali, a University of Florida researcher.

A major challenge is figuring out how to engage Haiti’s bayakou and change behaviors. Some of the nocturnal workers are hired by sanitation companies, but most are independent operators who empty into drainage canals in violation of the law, creating ideal conditions for the spread of cholera and other diseases.

“The bayakou need some sort of carrot to do things the right way, otherwise they’ll continue to engage in bad practices,” Namphy said.

But simply finding bayakou is tricky because they worry about getting arrested for illegal waste disposal and many don’t readily admit they do such a socially scorned job.

Little hope for change

Augustin has no shame talking about his labor. He’s been doing it for decades and readily discussed it on a recent evening, saying he’s proud his hard work feeds his family in a desperately poor country.

But the 48-year-old is weary of dreaming about pit latrines when he sleeps during the day. The dank holes are dangerous places, he says, because sharp objects are sometimes thrown down. He nearly died of tetanus a few years ago after getting cut by broken crockery in a customer’s latrine.

“I wouldn’t say no to doing this work a different way,” he said on a recent night cleaning a latrine, his white work rags spotted with excrement.

Haitian officials, meanwhile, are not holding their breath for the $400 million “new approach” announced by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as his tenure draws to a close.

Expectations were raised in 2012 when Ban announced a $2.27 billion, 10-year plan to eradicate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At the time, U.N. officials in Haiti said 70 percent of that plan would go toward developing water and sanitation infrastructure. But that initiative has been woefully underfunded.

“If sustained investments had been made years ago, I don’t think we’d still be in this situation,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, a senior policy adviser with Partners in Health, a Boston-based health care organization that has worked in Haiti since the 1980s. (VOA)

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PM Modi in Varanasi: Sanitation is worship, Cleanliness Is a Way to Serve the Poor

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi addresses the gathering, at Shahanshahpur, Varanasi Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh on September 23, 2017.

Varanasi, Sep 23 :  Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a public gathering in Varanasi said that sanitation is worship for him, as it can rid the poor of various diseases.

The gathering was largely attended by people on the second day of his Varanasi visit. Modi visited, Shahanshahpur a village of his Lok Sabha constituency. Where he laid the foundation stone of a public toilet in the area.

“That is because sanitation is also a kind of worship for me. It will rid the poor of my country of various diseases and the economic burden due to those diseases that result from dirty surroundings,” he said while addressing people there.

He said while no one likes garbage, everyone in India shies away from the responsibility of keeping their surroundings clean.

“It is the responsibility of every citizen and every family to keep their surroundings clean so we are able to build clean villages, clean cities and a clean nation,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister urged people to take one resolution each, to improve the nation by 2022. The year will also mark the 75 years of independence.

“In the coming five years, we have to be committed towards that resolution. If 125 crore people take one resolution each and live up to it, then the nation would move 125 crore steps forward in the next five years,” he said.


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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.

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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Women of America Are Stepping Up As Nuclear Energy Advocates

Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources

Nuclear Energy
Engineering manager Kristin Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear. VOA
  • The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years
  • Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources
  • Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear

San Francisco, August 26, 2017: Kristin Zaitz is confident that her nuclear power plant is safe.

Zaitz, an engineering manager, was at Diablo Canyon Power Plant during both her pregnancies and has scuba dived to inspect the plant, which hugs the California coast. Zaitz wears a pendant with a tiny bit of uranium inside, an item that tends to invite questions.

“We all have our perceptions of nuclear,” Zaitz said.

In a few years, Diablo Canyon will close, part of a trend nationwide. The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years. Add to that ongoing concerns about public safety, such as those raised by memories of disasters at nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, Chernobyl in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) and Three Mile Island in the United States.

Nuclear is ‘cleaner’ than fossil fuels

Supporters of nuclear energy say that when a reactor-based generating station closes, not enough wind and solar power is available to make up the difference. They lament that energy companies tend to turn instead to fossil fuels — coal and natural gas — which produce environmentally harmful emissions.

Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear, their effort to get the word out that nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources.

“I went into the plant very skeptical of nuclear and being scared of it,” said Matteson. “It took me six to seven years to really feel like this is something good for the environment. I don’t want people to take six to seven years to make that decision. We don’t have that long.”

Matteson, too, wears the uranium necklace as a conversation starter. “Nuclear is fun,” she said. Is there any radiation emitted by the pendant? “There’s slightly more than from a banana,” she conceded.

Also Read: Indian nuclear industry growing fast, says former Atomic Energy Commission chief

Women seen as powerful advocates

Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear. They can help change attitudes of other women who tend to be more skeptical than men about nuclear energy’s benefits.

At the recent U.S. Women in Nuclear conference in San Francisco, women working in the industry talked about how more should be done to make nuclear power’s case to the public, and how they may be the best suited to do it.

“As mothers, I think we also have an important role to play in letting the public know that we support nuclear for the future, for our children,” said Matteson. “And we don’t know other mothers supporting nuclear power in a vocal way. We thought there was a gap to fill.”

Young women say they look at careers in this industry because they are socially minded.

‘Do something good for the world’

“I went into this wanting to do something good for the world,” Lenka Kollar, business strategy director at NuScale, a firm in Oregon that designs and markets small modular reactors. “Wanting to bring power to people. There are still more than a billion people in the world who don’t have electricity.”

Critics of nuclear energy say it doesn’t matter who is promoting it.

“Using mothers’ voices to argue for a technology that is fundamentally dangerous and that has been demonstrated by disasters like Fukushima to be not safe for the communities that surround the power plants or even cities that are hundreds of miles away is disingenuous,” said Kendra Klein, a staff scientist with Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

While the future of nuclear power in the United States may be uncertain, the women here say they have a positive story to tell. (VOA)