The World Health Organization has rightly garnered a lot of attention from the H1N1 pandemic (which, by the way is now up to 39,620 confirmed cases and 167 deaths). But there is something even more deadly than the deadliest flu outbreak to which the WHO wants is member states to pay greater heed. Something that kills 1.3 million each year and injures 20 and 50 million others: Roadway accidents. And like HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB, roadway deaths disproportionately affect people living in lower and middle income countries (LIC’s and MIC’s). To wit:
About three hours ago the World Health Organization declared that the H1N1 Flu is now a global pandemic. And in so doing, the world is now at the beginning stages of the first global flu pandemic in 41 years.
What does this mean? First, if like me you live in a developed country, don’t panic. There have been about 30,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 in 74 (mostly developed) countries resulting and 141 deaths. And while each of these deaths is tragic, this is not considered all that deadly. (Regular influenza is much worse.) Also, about two thirds of those who have succumbed to H1N1 have had other underlying medical conditions. Second, the WHO does not recommend any travel restrictions. I’m still planning on attending that wedding in Puerto Vallarta in October.
Still, there are some reasons to be concerned. So far, the virus has popped in places with decent health infrastructures. It has not – and this is only a matter of time – hit the developing world. And this, says WHO director Margaret Chan “is of gravest concern.”
We do not know how this virus will behave under conditions typically found in the developing world. To date, the vast majority of cases have been detected and investigated in comparatively well-off countries.
Let me underscore two of many reasons for this concern. First, more than 99% of maternal deaths, which are a marker of poor quality care during pregnancy and childbirth, occurs in the developing world.
Second, around 85% of the burden of chronic diseases is concentrated in low- and middle-income countries.
Although the pandemic appears to have moderate severity in comparatively well-off countries, it is prudent to anticipate a bleaker picture as the virus spreads to areas with limited resources, poor health care, and a high prevalence of underlying medical problems.
Bottom line: brace yourself, global south.
I had MSNBC on mute and glanced over to see a headline, “Coke Zero Banned in Venezuela.” I couldn’t resist. Yes, it’s true. As the Health Minister said, “The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans.”
What strikes me as odd is that they banned Coke Zero, not regular Coke. I wouldn’t say that Coke is dangerous (I don’t care to tangle with Coke’s lawyers), but I do recall it chewing through some nails in science class. Perhaps those corn syrup commercials are really effective in Venezuela. Or maybe it was just lost in translation, zero coke(aine)?
Good news from the country’s Human Sciences Research Council:
South Africa’s HIV epidemic has levelled off at an infection rate of 10.9% for those aged two or older, according to a new study.
The survey also suggests the rate of infection in children and teenagers could be falling.
This could be partly attributed to increased use of condoms, it says.
There may be “light at the end of the tunnel,” in the words of South Africa’s Health Minister, but it’s still an uphill climb; there are more HIV-positive people in South Africa — 5.5 million — than anywhere else in the world. Still, increased condom usage is a good sign, one that the country’s leadership — having shifted from Thabo Mbeki, whose infamous denial and inaction deeply exacerbated the problem, to Jacob Zuma, who, still, disturbingly once claimed that a shower after sex decreased the risk of HIV infection — will have to actively push.
(image from flickr user World Bank Photo Collection under a Creative Commons license)
Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.”
Middle East: At today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza the SG remarked that the most recent ceasefire has held since yesterday at 8 a.m. local time. He noted that a durable ceasefire is necessary and UN shelters must continue to remain safe zones. The SG thanked UN staff in Gaza and will fly the UN flag at half-mast tomorrow in memory of those who died in the conflict.
Middle East: The SG commended Israeli and Palestinian parties for committing to a 72-hour ceasefire that took place at 8 a.m. local time today. He urges all parties to abide by the ceasefire and commence peace talks in Cairo to address underlying issues and agree on a durable ceasefire to sustainably stop the violence. The UN lends its full support toward these efforts.
Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones.
SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire. Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.
SG: The SG met with President Ortega yesterday in Nicaragua where he visited a wind farm and praised the country’s commitment to renewable energy. The SG arrived in Costa Rica today where he is expected to lecture about “Costa Rica and the United Nations: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century”.