Posts Tagged WASH

Cholera and Health Inequity in Latin America and the Caribbean discussed on Capitol Hill

October 29th, 2013

Photo by Olivier Asselin

Photo by Olivier Asselin

By Raquel Corona-Parra

Health issues in Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) were featured on Capitol Hill last week during two briefing sessions discussing the regional inequities in health and the cholera epidemic in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Tackling Health Inequity in Latin America

Public Health in Latin America,” was hosted by Representative Sam Farr of California on Wednesday, October 23rd as part of an ongoing monthly briefing series called “Latin America on the Rise.” The series features a diverse group of speakers responsible for addressing emerging and emergent issues in the Western Hemisphere.

Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said despite health achievements in the region, such as the elimination of polio and small pox and the recent WHO verification of onchocerciasis elimination in Colombia, the region remains characterized by significant health inequities.

“Despite the progress, the region is characterized by large differences in the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. This inequity among and within countries not only threatens the public’s health, it threatens human rights, economic prosperity, sustainable development, and stability throughout the region.”

Amanda Glassman, Director of Global Health Policy and Senior Fellow at the Salud Mesoamerica 2015 Initiative (a collaboration between the Carlos Slim Health Institute, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Inter-American Development Bank). However, more needs to be done, and she called on the government of the United States to increase its involvement with these issues in a framework of cooperation.

Conquering Cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

The event on Thursday October 24th, titled Conquering Cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic: The Untold Story of Progress, provided members of Congress, their staff and partners in health issues an update on the status of the control efforts of the cholera epidemic on the Island of Hispaniola.

The cholera outbreak in Haiti and the Dominican Republic began in late 2010 – just a few months after the catastrophic earthquake devastated Haiti. Prior to this outbreak, cholera had not been reported in Haiti for more than 100 years. Around 715,000 people have gotten sick from the disease and more than 8,000 deaths have been attributed to the epidemic – with cases spreading to Cuba and Mexico.

Dr. Carissa Etienne stressed that although the oral cholera vaccine has helped, improvements in water and sanitation are essential for the epidemic to be stopped.

The event was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Karen A. Goraleski, Executive Director of the WASH Advocates).

As a response to the epidemic, several initiatives and programs were formed to tackle disease surveillance, food safety and access to clean water and sanitation throughout the region. For example, the 17% had access to sanitation in 2010.

These improvements in the infrastructure will also help reduce and eliminate other infectious diseases such as lymphatic filariasis (LF). LF, or elephantiasis, is a debilitating disease that is spread by mosquitoes and causes extreme swelling of the extremities. A group of Global Network partners are making significant progress in LF control and elimination efforts in Haiti. The partnership includes the Haitian government, the CDC, CBM, IMA World Health, the University of Notre Dame and the Envision Project, managed by RTI International and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. We believe it is partnerships like these – which are focusing on controlling and eliminating pervasive diseases of poverty like LF and cholera – that are enabling entire communities to break the cycle of poverty and disease.

Calling All Collaborators to Eliminate Intestinal Worms in Children

September 27th, 2013

Pictured from left to right: John A. Jufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009) and Global Network NTD Special Envoy; Bill Lin, director of Worldwide Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson; Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, director of the Department of NTDs at WHO; Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of Helen Keller International (HKI); and Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor at ABC News

Pictured from left to right: John A. Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009) and Global Network NTD Special Envoy; Bill Lin, director of Worldwide Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson; Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, director of the Department of NTDs at WHO; Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of Helen Keller International (HKI); and Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor at ABC News

“What we want to do is produce quality of life for the people.” – H.E. John A. Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009) and Global Network NTD Special Envoy

We have been 50 cents per person per year, we must garner greater attention, collaboration and political will to see the end of horrible suffering in the world’s most neglected communities.

We are certainly hopeful.

It was fitting that in the height of UNGA meetings, the undercutting many Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Business as usual” simply wouldn’t do! So, our event, “Innovate & Integrate: Multi-sectoral Approaches for Eliminating Intestinal Worms in Children,” set out to explore how and why organizations in the fields of NTDs; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); nutrition; maternal and child health; and education can collaborate on this issue to ensure lasting advancements.

Bill Lin presents on NTDs and WASH

Bill Lin presents on NTDs and WASH

Bill Lin, director of Worldwide Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson, opened with his experience growing up in a rural area outside of Hong Kong. Forever imprinted on him was the constant chanting of “wash your hands” and “don’t put your hands in your mouth.” “You [couldn’t] get clean water just by flipping a faucet.” Bill explained.

Bleak living conditions then and now have caused the perpetual transmission of intestinal worms. Therefore, we must not only distribute medicines to control STH infections but also work with partners to stop them from spreading. “There is a clear need for the education [and] health sectors to work together” to encourage behavioral changes.

Helen Keller International (HKI).

Recognizing that we were talking about “a disease that isn’t killing a lot of people” during a “busy week in New York,” Dr. Besser asked Dr. Savioli, “why does [STH] deserve attention?”

Optimistically, Dr. Lorenzo responded, “We can do something about it. We are eradicating guinea worm, we have the drugs to treat intestinal helminths … we can really interrupt transmission. We can make a difference with the tools we have in our hands.”

President Kufuor chimed in, “our goal is to seek solutions.” Speaking from his experiences in making NTD and WASH advancements as President of Ghana, including tremendous strides in the effort to eliminate guinea worm, President Kufuor noted that behavior change was critical, including “show[ing]  [people] how to boil water.” President Kufuor also stressed that the successes he oversaw were due to implementing policies that educated the public and provided infrastructure, and knowing when to “seek international help.”

Dr. Besser then asked Kathy, “Why does HKI think this is an important problem to tackle?”

Kathy answered that STH infections are “incredibly disabling” and threaten worker productivity, children’s attendance in school and the ability of children to achieve. We’re “really talking about the posterity of the country unless these diseases are tackled,” Kathy said.

Dr. Besser then asked President Kufuor about the widespread impact of intestinal worms. President Kufuor stated, “Worms prevent kids from getting full benefits. … The economy isn’t well when people have worms. … We tackle the problem from the source.”

President Kufuor also touched on a devastating consequence of STH infections: the impact on pregnant women and their babies: “Even with mothers, if they do not look after themselves well with what they eat, what they drink, then the fetus will not mature the way it should.”

Addressing the economic impact, Dr. Besser asked Dr. Savioli, “What evidence is there that these type of control efforts make a difference?” Dr. Savioli recognized that there is huge economic growth occurring in Africa, and that “those countries doing best in the African continent with NTDs are the ones that are doing better economically.”

Asking Kathy about whether it’s “idealistic to think that you can accomplish cross-sector integration,” Dr. Besser said, “Can it happen?” To which Kathy responded, “Nothing can happen unless you work cross-sectorally.”

Wrapping up the interviews, Dr. Besser asked, “If the MDGs don’t list NTDs, what does that mean?”

Dr. Savioli noted, “We need to put pressure to make sure that happens” and that, thanks to “a unique relationship between international organizations, NGOs, endemic states and the private sector,” we have a “historically unique” opportunity “in the history of public health.”

Kathy shared that we need to go beyond the drugs, giving the example of HKI’s partnership with Johnson & Johnson to develop curriculums in education – hand washing, face washing – in Cambodia to realize tremendous successes.

It’s no wonder that after the interviews and audience Q&A, Dr. Besser said, he has “about 50 more questions [he] would love to ask” and that we’re “fortunate to have such different perspectives on this problem.” STH is different in that the solution is known, and that “it’s a problem of will and resources to implement the solution,” Dr. Besser concluded.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Savioli stated, “We have the scientific evidence that when you treat people regularly, the morbidity goes down.” However, “countries have to be at the center of it” because “countries that have done well have performed better” in economic, health and other development markers.

“You deprive the country if you don’t do it,” Kathy closed.

Thanks to all for such an engaging, thought-provoking event! We look forward to seeing how cross-sectoral collaborationcan make a difference in STH control and elimination in children.

NTDs are on a Roll in Sweden

September 12th, 2013

Former President of Ghana John Kufuor speaks at World Water Week. (Photo by Worldwaterweek)

Former President of Ghana John Kufuor speaks at World Water Week. (Photo by Worldwaterweek)

What do you call a room full of the world’s leading water and toilet specialists? A Charmin group!

Last week, His Excellency John Kufuor, President of Ghana (2001-2009), travelled to Sweden to meet with such a group at the Stockholm International Water Institute’s (SIWI) World Water Week, an annual week-long conference that has been the focal point for the globe’s water issues since 1991. As the Global Network’s Special Envoy for NTDs and Chair of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), President Kufuor represented the dual (and closely connected) issues of NTDs and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

As I highlighted last week, poor communities typically lack access to the essential protective measures of clean water, sanitation facilities and soap for good hygiene, leaving them at much higher risk of coming into contact with NTDs or the insects that spread them. As a result, NTDs continue to keep communities poor and without sufficient access to clean water and sanitation.

For this reason, the Global Network was thrilled to join President Kufuor as he worked to increase awareness about the vital links between NTDs and WASH. In partnership with the Global Network and SWA, he encouraged strong political will to support NTD and WASH initiatives and called for heightened collaboration between the two communities. President Kufuor acted as a powerful voice for NTDs and WASH during his remarks at the Stockholm World Water Prize Seminar, the Africa Day ministerial session, and at several other events throughout the week, and was also praised in the media for his efforts to help the world’s poorest communities.

In his remarks at the Stockholm World Water Prize Seminar, which celebrated Dr. Peter Morgan as the 2013 Water Prize Laureate, President Kufuor stated, “I am confident that improving access to clean water and sanitation and fighting diseases, such as roundworm, hookworm and snail fever, are among the best investments governments can make.”

Beyond his official duties at the conference itself, President Kufuor conducted several high level meetings with representatives from the Swedish and French governments to discuss how they can leverage their investments in water initiatives to simultaneously tackle NTDs.

The Global Network thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with SWA at World Water Week and hopes that this initial partnership will soon lead to substantial improvements for the 1.4 billion people who have NTDs and the astounding 2.5 billion people who lack access to basic sanitation.

It was another busy week for the Global Network but there is still much more work to do; good thing we are not pooped out yet!

A Royal Case of Worms

September 6th, 2013

concluded today that the fifteenth-century king of England suffered from a mild case of roundworm. Soil samples from where his intestines would have been show multiple roundworm eggs, which can be preserved for hundreds of years under the right conditions. (Richard III died in battle at the age of 32, and his burial location was lost to history until his skeleton was discovered by archeologists in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester.)

NTDs have plagued humanity for centuries and were common even in England during the reign of Richard III. But why is it unlikely that you’d get an NTD in the UK today?

In fact, if you have the resources to protect yourself, it is unlikely that you would be infected with an NTD anywhere. While the rich and poor were susceptible to NTDs in the past, today, only the poor in developing countries―the bottom billion―are at high risk. Geography plays a role (NTDs like warm, moist places), but living standards are the most significant determining factor.

Poor communities typically lack access to the essential protective measures of clean water, sanitation facilities, soap for good hygiene, and improved housing, and are thus at much higher risk of coming into contact with parasites or the insects that spread them. By introducing these measures, along with shoes for added protection and free medications to treat current infections, communities can start down to the path to being NTD-free. Too bad Richard III didn’t know that!

For this reason, President Kufuor and the Global Network team are in Stockholm this week to attend the Stockholm International Water Institute’s World Water Week. In partnership with Sanitation and Water for All, President Kufuor is working to promote long term NTD solutions by integrating mass drug administration with programs for water, sanitation and hygiene.

Look out next week for our follow up blog from World Water Week, where we will report back on President Kufuor’s high-level advocacy activities.