Video: Investigating the Causes of Water Shortages in Ghana and Nigeria

Both Ghana and Nigeria are suffering from major water shortages and the causes are not entirely known. An investigation by Steve Sapienza for PBS looks at how Nigeria’s Ameto Akpe and Ghana’s Samuel Agyemang are holding their respective governments through investigative reporting.

Here is a small snip-it from the report:

STEVE SAPIENZA: In the neighboring country of Ghana, residents of the capital, Accra, are frustrated with the government’s failure to provide a reliable supply of piped fresh water, this despite Ghana’s ample water resources and a steady flow of foreign aid for water projects.

About four years ago, when Accra was experiencing severe water shortages, the public named these containers Kufuor gallons after the sitting president. Now reporter Samuel Agyemang is asking why these containers are still found in area neighborhoods.

Samuel Agyemang is an award-winning reporter who anchors the national evening news for Metro TV.

SAMUEL AGYEMANG, Metro TV: Hello. Good evening. And welcome to the weekend news.

STEVE SAPIENZA: His investigation into illegal nighttime water tapping led him to pursue the much bigger problem of gaps in water access citywide. The story starts right in his own backyard, the seaside enclave known as Teshie.

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WHO Director General Warns of Growing Antibiotics Resistance

Margaret Chan

“Worldwide, the fact that greater quantities of antibiotics are used in healthy animals than in unhealthy humans is a cause for great concern,” said WHO director general Margaret Chan in her remarks to a meeting of infectious disease experts in Copenhagen last week.  She warned of growing resistance and urged for restrictions in the use of antibiotics in food production and a concerted crackdown on counterfeit medicines.

The Independent reports:

“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

She continued: “Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise in Europe, and elsewhere in the world. We are losing our first-line antimicrobials.

“Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units.

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Healthy Dose: HIV/AIDS up in Uganda; Burden Falling on Women

March 19, 2012

More than half a million people contracted HIV in the past five years, most of whom are women, according to the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey.

This puts the number of people now living with HIV/Aids at about 2.3 million people up from approximately 1.8 million in 2005. The results released by the Ministry of Health on Friday also indicated a slight increase in the prevalence rate of the disease from 6.4 per cent in the 2004/2005 to now 6.7 per cent among 15-49-year-olds.

Women alone had a prevalence rate of 7.7 per cent and men at 5.6 per cent with higher figures registered in the urban population and wealthier class for women and both rural and urban men had the same prevalence rate.

Those in their 30s and 40s were found most affected by the virus. The unmarried, widowed or divorced were also more likely to be infected.

What was also worrying is that comprehensive knowledge about prevention and transmission of the disease was very low at 34 per cent for women and 41 per cent for men. This meant that most of the messages were either not reaching the people or were misinterpreted.

The sampled districts in the eastern region registered the lowest prevalence rate. Incidentally, the regions where the highest numbers of men practicing circumcision were also recorded. West Nile on the other hand registered the highest prevalence increase from 2.67 per cent in 2006 to 4.4 per cent now.

Some interventions like Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) were doing well. The survey based on household and individual interviews with 11,340 households.

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India: More Homes Have Phones Than Latrines

Data from the India census finds that, out of 246.6 million households, only 46.9%  have lavatories. The majority, 49.8%, defecate in the open and 3.2% reported using use public toilets. That means nearly half of the households in the entire country do not use a latrine of any sort.

“Open defecation continues to be a big concern for the country as almost half of the population do it,” Registrar General and Census Commissioner C Chandramouli said while releasing the latest data. “Cultural and traditional reasons and a lack of education are the prime reasons for this unhygienic practice. We have to do a lot in these fronts,” he said.¹

Standing in stark contrast is the fact that 63.2% of homes have a telephone. This means mobile technology has found a way to reach the majority of Indians by creating competitive markets that enable prices so the majority of Indians can access it. Meanwhile, a pressing public health need lags behind. To be fair, a comparison between phones and latrines is not entirely fair, but it does illustrate the possibility to reach housholds in a rapidly growing manner.

The BBC reports further on the data from the census:

About 77% of homes in the eastern state of Jharkhand have no toilet facilities, while the figure is 76.6% for Orissa and 75.8% in Bihar. All three are among India’s poorest states with huge populations which live on less than a dollar a day.

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Healthy Dose: Zimbabwe On Verge of Providing Free Maternal Health Care

March 16, 2012

Mothers in Zimbabwe will soon have access to free maternal healthcare thanks to over half a billion dollars pleged by donors, says finance minister Tendai Biti.

A brighter future - making progress against HIV/AIDSAccording to the Zimbabwe Maternal And Perinatal Mortality Survey conducted in 2007, 26,000 to 84,000 women suffer from disabilities caused by complications during pregnancy and childbirth each year.

“The statistics are that 790 out of 100,000 mothers are dying [at birth] and that’s genocide,” Biti said.

There are, of course, many factors contributing to these high figures of maternal death and injury, including HIV/AIDS, food shortages, international isolation and a dramatic decline in the quality of primary health care services in the last decade.

However, clinical fees has remained an issue at the forefront of Zimbabwe’s struggle to improve maternal healthcare.

It costs, for instance, between 10 and 50 dollars to deliver a baby in an urban public facility and this has kept even the most basic services out of reach of the country’s poorest.

“[It is] concerning when there are user fees in place for antenatal consultations, deliveries and referrals, making it unaffordable for many women to access these — often life-saving — services in public health clinics and district hospitals,” said Mari Carmen Viñoles, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières in Zimbabwe.

Not only do the fees deter many poor rural women from seeking medical assistance, but those who fail to settle their debts are often ‘unlawfully’ detained in hospitals and clinics, reports Radio VOP.

In October 2010, deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe told the Zimbabwean Parliament that since giving birth is a “national duty”, women “should not be made to pay maternity fees”.

That same month, the government launched the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa and the related Zimbabwe Health Sector Investment Case which called for a 700-million-dollar investment to improve healthcare and to provide access to health services to the poorest citizens. The plan was backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization.


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Healthy Lives Wins “Best Blog” Award

We are honored by the announcement today that Healthy Lives won the award for “Best Blog” at the Nonprofit PR Awards from PR News.

We are thankful for the acknowledgement and we strive to make this site a useful resource for PSI and the global health community-at-large. Our fellow finalists, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants – AICPA Insights blog and Cone Communications – What Do You Stand For? Blog should be commended for their excellent work.

This seems like a great opportunity to solicit your feedback about the blog. We aspire to be a resource to readers interested in global health and development.  Every morning we post our Healthy Dose global health news roundup, and email it to our subscribers. We are continually updating the site throughout the day with the latest insights, opinions, field reports, and news.  It is easy to measure the traffic to the site, but we want to know how you think we are doing. Are there stories you would like to see covered more often? Are we bringing you the right perspectives on the issues? What do think about the site? How can we improve?

Please leave a note in the comments section or hit us up on twitter @psihealthylives to share your thoughts.

We thank you for reading and look forward to continuing the conversation.

- The PSI Healthy Lives Team

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Global Water Goal Met; Now Let’s Push Sanitation

The following post is by Lisa Schechtman, head of policy and advocacy for WaterAid, and originally appears on theWeNews blog. Learn more about what PSI is doing for World Water Day and in the water and sanitation field here.

March has been a great month for women and water.

Let’s keep it going as we approach World Water Day on March 22.

The huge news, of course, came when the United Nations announced that the world has met the Millennium Development Goal target to reduce by half the proportion of people worldwide living without access to safe drinking water.

Wow.

Not only was this target met, it was met nearly four years ahead of schedule.

This is really a big splash for girls and women. It’s often girls and women, after all, who fetch and pump the family’s water and manage crops while lacking control over household resources. Girls and women are disproportionately burdened with chores and care-giving, illiteracy, hunger and poverty.

Access to safe drinking water can help ameliorate or overcome all these challenges.

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6 Reasons to Reject PEPFAR Cuts

Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research,  reacts to the announcement that the Obama administration to cut the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by 11% in the FY2013 budget.

Collins gives 6 reasons why PEPFAR should not be cut:

1. It undermines the goal of an “AIDS-free generation.” Last December, President Obama pledged that we can “end this pandemic,” echoing Secretary of State Clinton’s earlier statement that achieving an “AIDS-free generation” is a policy priority for the U.S. But the budget request isn’t consistent with this stated ambition. Though the White House insists the U.S. can still achieve the AIDS treatment and other targets set by the president last year, it is inevitable that PEPFAR program managers, faced with seriously diminished resources and ambitious targets in a few areas, will slash services for which there are no specific goals. That might include, for example, the PEPFAR program providing food and education to millions of children orphaned by AIDS.

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Healthy Dose: Study Questions WHO AIDS Treatment Recommendation

March 15, 2012

A study that appears today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases calls for the WHO-suggested tenofovir/lamivudine/nevirapine HIV treatment combination to undergo clinical trials. Medical News Today reports:

Principal investigator Dr Robert Shafer, a professor in the Department of Medicine, in the Division of Infectious Diseases, at Stanford University in California, and colleagues, sifted through 1,800 journal papers and conference abstracts and found 33 studies that had studied the efficacy of the four new drug combinations newly recommended by WHO.

The least expensive of the four drug combinations recommended by the WHO is one that combines tenofovir with lamivudine and nevirapine.

Shafer and colleagues could find only three studies covering this combination.

Two of the studies were of trials that had to stop early because of high failure rates in the first three to four months. And the third was a retrospective study of antiretroviral therapies received by 9,000 patients in Nigeria, that showed the tenofovir/lamivudine/nevirapine combination had the highest failure rate.

Shafer told the press that they followed “multiple lines of evidence”, all of which “strongly suggested” this particular therapy poses a risk to successful treatment:

“It’s not just that it appeared inferior [compared to other alternatives] but among patients with treatment failure, drug resistance developed quickly,” he added.

The WHO-recommended tenofovir/lamivudine/nevirapine combination is increasingly being used in sub-Saharan Africa, said Shafer, where monitoring is too sparse to spot treatment failures.

In such regions, virus load testing is not done as frequently, and resistance testing is often not done at all, said Shafer, noting it “could take several years to pick up problems”.

Shafer goes on to explain that unless a prospective study (one that follows people from the beginning) is set up, it will take a lot of retrospective data to confirm the concerns that he and colleagues have raised: that the tenofovir/lamivudine/nevirapine combination may have a failure rate that is unacceptable, compared to other treatments recommended by WHO.

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Japan Contributes $340 Million to Global Fund

Japan announced that it will make its highest contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today. This year, Japan will make $216 million for its 2012 contribution and have promised a full sum of $340 million.

The Global Fund on the announcement:

“Japan has always been a leader in the fight against disease, but this is a great vote of confidence in our commitment to saving lives,” said Gabriel Jaramillo, General Manager of the Global Fund. “We recognize Japan’s determination to see real advances in global health, and we are equally determined to deliver.”

This new contribution represents a significant increase over Japan’s previous highest contribution of US$ 246 million in 2010. In 2011, Japan’s contribution was reduced to US $114 million following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeast Japan in March of last year, but this new contribution demonstrates that Japan’s commitment to the Global Fund remains steadfast.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that Japan would contribute US $340 million as part of its pledge of US$ 800 million to the Global Fund announced at the third Replenishment Conference in 2010.

Japan’s leadership in the Global Fund began when a summit of G8 nations called for the creation of such a global financing organization in 2000 in Okinawa, Japan.

The contribution received this week raises Japan’s contributions to the Global Fund to more than US$ 1.6 billion since its creation in 2002.

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Healthy Dose: Suspected Polio Case In India

March 14, 2012

Two weeks after the World Health Organization certified that India had gone one year without any new polio cases, a baby girl was admitted to a state-run hospital in Kolkata, India with symptoms of polio. The Hindustan Times reports:

No Time to Stop the Fight Against PolioThe child’s stool samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune and School of Tropical Medicine in Kolkata for confirmatory tests. The reports are expected next week.
“It is a suspected case of polio. In medical parlance, the symptoms are called acute flaccid paralysis. The patient is under observation,” Kumar Kanti Das, superintendent of Baruipur subdivisional hospital (BSH), said.

The child’s mother, Shanta Naskar, said Sumi began dragging her feet after she was administered routine immunisation (not for polio) at a primary health centre in February.

“Several other babies in our locality are suffering from these symptoms,” Shanta said. Her husband Sudhangshu works at a factory that makes puffed rice. Sumi is their only child.

Authorities have now decided to decided to launch an intensive surveillance programme in Indrabala village, said Dr Amabasu Das, additional director of health services in charge of mother and child care.

The last polio case in the country was detected in January last year when a two-year-old girl from Howrah district was afflicted with the virus. There were no reports of other polio cases in the country in the following 12 months, and India was declared polio-free.

“We have checked with the district administration. WHO officials have also rushed to the hospital. The child was administered oral polio vaccines more than once,” Sanjay Mitra, principal secretary in charge of health department, said.

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Ashley Judd: Why AIDS Won’t Win

The following post is by PSI board member Ashley Judd and originally appears on the Huffington Post.

“Where is Lesotho?” my friend asked me as I was sorting through my mail.

I held the envelope in my hand, staring at the smudged postmark that read “Maseru, Lesotho.” As I opened it I imagined the worst. Lesotho, a landlocked kingdom surrounded by the nation of South Africa, has faced one of the world’s fiercest HIV/AIDS epidemics. Last year, more than one in five adults in Lesotho was HIV-positive, a statistic that has ravaged families and filled orphanages across the country. I imagined that the letter was from a grad school classmate or global health colleague, informing me that the situation in Lesotho was getting worse.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The letter, written by a young woman named Limakatso Mokobocko, filled me with hope. It was a testament to why we can create an AIDS-free generation: the power and commitment of youth.

Limakatso is an on-air radio host for the Silk-eeTM female condom program, an initiative operated by PSI, Johnson & Johnson, and the United States Agency for International Development to empower young women to protect themselves from HIV and unintended pregnancies. Her letter recounts, in painful detail, the horrors inflicted on her country by HIV, by gender inequality, and by cultural taboos that prevent young women from asking simple questions about sex that could save their lives.

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