Global Health Means Health At Home Too

By Mark Rosenberg, President & CEO of The Task Force for Global Health

Mark Rosenberg, president and CEO of The Task Force for Global Health

Mark Rosenberg, president and CEO of The Task Force for Global Health

Traditionally, there has been a dichotomy between U.S. health (“health at home”) and global health (“health over there”). The pervasiveness of American exceptionalism drives much of this belief that the United States is better and separate from the rest of the world, despite glaring evidence that our health system performs poorly on many measures, especially cost, compared to health systems in other countries. But as the world has flattened and become more interconnected, we can no longer afford to approach global health with an “us” and “them” mentality. Our experiences with infectious diseases such as HIV and most recently, Ebola, have demonstrated that global health does not stop at U.S. borders.

We are now in a golden age for global health. Unprecedented levels of resources are being devoted to global health programs that are providing new opportunities for health improvements. Improved health, in turn, has led to increases in life expectancy and quality of life for people in the developing world, helping to fuel economic development. Over the next three years, six of the 13 fastest growing economies will be in Africa. Programs to arrest the HIV epidemic, reduce deaths from malaria, and improve maternal and newborn survival have succeeded in part because of innovative approaches to health. But despite clear evidence of their potential applications for “health at home,” these approaches have not yet been imported back to the United States.

Healthcare workers in 49 developing countries are using specially equipped smart phones to collect and analyze data about the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases. Photo courtesy Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center.

Healthcare workers in 49 developing countries are using specially equipped smart phones to collect and analyze data about the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases. Photo courtesy Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center.

Mobile devices, particularly smart phones, offer powerful solutions to challenging global health problems. Programs in African and South Asian countries are using a technology as simple as text messaging to report new cases of infectious diseases, births and deaths, and even health facility utilization statistics. In 49 developing countries where people are threatened by neglected tropical diseases, the Decatur-based Task Force for Global Health has deployed more than 1,000 smart phones to aid healthcare workers in the field as they collect and analyze data about the prevalence of these diseases. Smart phone applications also are being developed that will alert to outbreaks of diseases that could affect people globally such as Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Mobile technologies are low-cost tools that could support an improved global disease surveillance network and also help strengthen our domestic surveillance network.

Mobile devices also have the potential to capture important health data that can be used to inform better health choices and assist public health professionals in responding to problems. An estimated 90 percent of Americans own cell phones and among those 64 percent were smart phones. Smart phone adoption continues to increase worldwide. However, the developing world and European countries have already taken leads in showing how these technologies can be used to prevent the spread of diseases, empower individuals to make healthy choices, and demand effective government. Best practices and lessons learned from these experiences could be used to improve “health at home.”

Georgia organizations have the potential to help make “global health at home”–a concept developed by Dr. Howard Hiatt, a former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health–a reality. Diverse global health approaches could be applied to help address at least two urgent public health issues facing Georgia today–high maternal mortality and HIV infection rates. In 2011, Georgia had the highest rate of maternal or “pregnancy-related deaths” and the fifth highest rate of new HIV diagnoses, levels on par with some developing countries. A Georgia Global Health Alliance could bring to bear members’ expertise and solutions that have worked in other countries to address these health issues in Georgia. The Washington Global Health Alliance has been sharing their experiences with the program “Global to Local” with Georgia as it works to build its own global health alliance–and I look forward to sharing with you more updates about its development.

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CDC Releases New 2016 Yellow Book for International Travelers

By Gary Brunette, M.D., M.S., chief of CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch and editor-in-chief of the Yellow Book

Gary Brunette, M.D., M.S., chief of CDC's Travelers’ Health Branch and editor-in-chief of the Yellow Book

Gary Brunette, M.D., M.S., chief of CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch and editor-in-chief of the Yellow Book

In the past decade, global travel has grown dramatically, and any traveler—human, animal or pathogen—can cross the globe in less than 24 hours. Recent health events, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the spread of chikungunya in the Western Hemisphere, and the emergence of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have piqued public interest in travelers’ safety. In the United States, we’ve seen vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and tuberculosis imported by international travelers as well. These changes in the global health landscape have highlighted the importance of accurate, up-to-date travel health information. The Travelers’ Health Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to provide this critical information to ensure the health and safety of US travelers abroad.

Amid recent changes in global health, public interest in travelers’ safety has never been greater.

Amid recent changes in global health, public interest in travelers’ safety has never been greater.

For international travelers and the health professionals who care for them, CDC Health Information for International Travel (more commonly known as the Yellow Book) is the reliable resource for preventing illness and injury in a globalized world. The book provides expert recommendations for healthy travel, including vaccine and drug information, disease maps and country-specific disease information, advice for conducting a complete pre-travel consultation, detailed precautions for specific types of travelers and advice for returning travelers. The Yellow Book is produced biennially, with input from hundreds of travel medicine experts and is published through a unique collaboration between CDC, the CDC Foundation and Oxford University Press.

Written by a team of CDC experts on the forefront of travel medicine, the Yellow Book provides a user-friendly, vital resource for those in the business of keeping travelers healthy abroad.

Written by a team of CDC experts on the forefront of travel medicine, the Yellow Book provides a user-friendly, vital resource for those in the business of keeping travelers healthy abroad.

CDC has recently released the new 2016 edition of the Yellow Book. The 2016 edition offers the U.S. government’s most current health recommendations for international travel, as well as a variety of new features, including:

  • Updated information on emerging global diseases such as Ebola, MERS, and chikungunya
  • Expanded, specific guidelines for travel to 16 select destinations, including Brazil, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, and Haiti
  • Commentary on the cost analysis of travel medicine
  • Discussion of complementary and alternative health approaches to travel medicine
  • Comprehensive advice for health care workers traveling to provide care overseas
  • Country-specific malaria risk maps for 15 countries
  • Yellow fever risk maps detailing vaccine recommendations in 10 countries

The Yellow Book provides a user-friendly, vital resource for those in the business of keeping travelers healthy abroad. The 2016 edition is available in print from Oxford University Press and will soon be available as a mobile app for iOS and Android and online on CDC’s website.

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No guarantees in South Sudan’s deadly conflict

By Aimee Ansari, Country Director, CARE South Sudan

Aimee Ansari, Country Director, CARE South Sudan

Aimee Ansari, Country Director, CARE South Sudan

Walking into the CARE supported clinic in Pariang, I see a little girl with edema – her belly is swollen because she hasn’t got enough to eat. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a child with edema, and I certainly didn’t expect to see one in this part of the country. Of all the places that CARE supports health care, Pariang, in Unity state, has traditionally been the least food insecure.

But we’re seeing more children with edema these days, especially in the three states most affected by the conflict: Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei. Here in Pariang, malnutrition rates among children have reached critical levels, as they have elsewhere in Unity.

It’s a reminder of how deadly this conflict has become, even if you manage to escape from the fighting, there are no guarantees. The latest figures estimate around 3.8 million people were food insecure in April. In simple terms, it means 3.8 million South Sudanese – almost a quarter of the population here – didn’t have enough to eat and require humanitarian assistance. These figures are expected to rise to 4.9 million by July. These numbers are bad, but without the work of organizations like CARE, they’d be a whole lot worse.

A woman and her child wait to be seen outside the Pariang Health Center in northern South Sudan, which was established by CARE to support the local communities. Credit: Josh Estey/CARE

A woman and her child wait to be seen outside the Pariang Health Center in northern South Sudan, which was established by CARE to support the local communities. Credit: Josh Estey/CARE

Around 500,000 of these people live in Unity state. The Pariang nutrition team explains to me that they are struggling to help explain to people where to get nutritious food; many of the fruits and vegetables that were previously available in the market here are no longer sold. The old trade and transportation routes have collapsed, replaced by new ones that sporadically make their way into rural communities, ceasefires permitting.

South Sudan’s economy is starting to buckle under the weight of 17 months of conflict and plunging oil prices. Costs are soaring, especially for food, but because of the conflict, there’s less food to buy, and not a lot of cash to buy it with. Shortages are everywhere. As I write this, the capital Juba has a bread shortage, drinking water is difficult to find and fuel lines are long. For ordinary South Sudanese, who spend around 80 percent of their income on food, this is life-threatening.

The role of humanitarian organizations in this crisis is more critical now than ever before, yet CARE has been forced to close programs because we no longer have the funding to run them. The need is still there, but the cost of running programs is high.

So we’re focusing our efforts, reducing the number of sectors and locations in which we work. We’re now making cuts to our health and sanitation programs in order to provide food and nutrition assistance in the coming months. That’s more than 160,000 South Sudanese we’re no longer able to help.

I asked an economist what can be done to stop the collapse of the economy.  “Simple,” he said, “stop the war.”

But peace seems a long way off. Until it happens, it will be the NGOs, the UN, committed local authorities and the resilience of the South Sudanese people that will help to make the country work.  We are building for the future…but we need both the leadership of the country and those outside the country to support our efforts and work to finding peace.  In the meantime, we will continue to provide services as best we can.

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Medicines and food go hand in hand in humanitarian aid

By Katie Pace, MAP International

-Katie Pace, Communications Officer, MAP International

Katie Pace, Communications Officer, MAP International

It’s estimated that 805 million people across the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. That means one in every nine people on our planet go to bed hungry each night. Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined and nearly 3.1 million children are dying each year from poor nutrition. MAP International is partnering with Stop Hunger Now to drop this staggering death rate.

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As a medical aid organization it’s obvious that we are providing antibiotics and emergency relief items in times of crisis, but something that isn’t so obvious is the impact of vitamins on those that are malnourished. Worldwide, over 136,000 women and children die due to iron-deficiency anemia and 450,000 children under five die due to zinc deficiency.

When partnered with fortified food from organizations like Stop Hunger Now, we have the ability to combat both the causes of malnourishment and save more lives. Healthy and nutritious food is essential to a child’s mental and physical development, by providing fortified foods and vitamins we are giving each child the chance to reach their full potential.

The top three ways to resolve the global malnutrition issue is by eating more of better nutritious food, fortifying food staples and vitamin supplements for those who need them most.

MAP International, Dominican Republic.  Child is eating Stop Hunger Now meal at a school with a MAP supported clinic.

MAP International, Dominican Republic. Child is eating Stop Hunger Now meal at a school with a MAP supported clinic.

Stop Hunger Now meets the top two solutions by providing prepacked meals that are nutritiously sound. Every dehydrated rice/soy meal is fortified with 23 essential vitamins and nutrients. By partnering with MAP International, Stop Hunger Now also takes essential vitamins and medicines with them that they can use to provide additional vitamin supplements to the most vulnerable.

Our vitamins provide children in third world countries with the ability to absorb the nutrients from their food, while our medicines treat those that are sick so that they can recover with the help of proper nutrition.

This is why we partner with Stop Hunger Now, together, our medicines and their food are more impactful together. This week, thanks to this partnership, a shipment of 278,000 volunteer packed meals and medical supplies are on their way to impact lives in Honduras.

Stop Hunger Now, Honduras

Stop Hunger Now, Honduras

Stop Hunger Now is driven by the vision of a world without hunger. Their mission is to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable and creating a global commitment to mobilize the necessary resources. www.stophungernow.org

MAP International is a global Christian health organization that partners with people living in conditions of poverty to save lives and develop healthier families and communities. www.map.org

 

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An Alliance of Georgia’s Global Health Organizations Could Help Address the Emerging Crisis of Noncommunicable Diseases

Mark Rosenberg, president and CEO of The Task Force for Global Health

Mark Rosenberg, president and CEO of The Task Force for Global Health

By Mark Rosenberg

Much progress has been made in recent decades in reducing deaths from infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. But around the world in countries of all income levels, there is a smoldering epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) that threaten to lower life expectancies and undermine social and economic development. In 2012, NCDs such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases accounted for 68 percent of the world’s deaths. By 2030, NCDs are expected to become the most common causes of deaths globally, with most of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Despite the statistics that NCDs are reaching crisis proportions, the issue has not yet attracted very much attention from governments, the private sector, or civil society. The U.S. government, for example, currently spends 2,000 times more foreign aid dollars each year on HIV/AIDS than it does on NCDs. Continued low investment in NCDs will have significant consequences for global health and the global economy. NCDs saddle individuals, families, communities, and countries with costly healthcare costs and afflict needless suffering. They are also barriers to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. A 2011 estimate by the World Economic Forum projected that the five leading NCDs will cost the global economy a staggering $47 trillion over the next 20 years, which will divert scare resources that could be better invested in education and other development programs.

Complex social, economic, and environmental factors drive NCDs. Growing income of the developing world, for example, has provided more people with access to tobacco and unhealthy processed foods, raising the risks for respiratory diseases, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The cruel irony of NCDs, however, is that they can actually worsen poverty by burdening people with diseases that are costly to treat, reduce their productivity, and shorten their life expectancies. NCDs often develop over many years as a result of poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, and other modifiable risk factors. Comprehensive approaches to addressing NCDs will be needed that cover the spectrum from prevention to treatment, and engage all sectors of society.

More people in the developing world are smoking, which is contributing to the rising global prevalence of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer and respiratory diseases.

More people in the developing world are smoking, which is contributing to the rising global prevalence of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer and respiratory diseases.

The sheer scale of the NCD issue also means collaborations will be absolutely critical. In 2012, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly passed a resolution outlining steps that need to be taken to prevent and control NCDs globally. The resolution urged “international cooperation, including collaborative partnerships” and called on “non-health actors and key stakeholders to promote health and to reduce NCD risk factors.” It highlighted the need for “alliances and networks that bring together national, regional, and global actors, including academic and research institutes, for the development of new medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and technologies, learning from the experiences in the field of HIV/AIDS, among others.”

Several of Georgia’s global health organizations are already working and collaborating to address NCDs through programs that focus on prevention, research, and advocacy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is partnering with the Pan American Health Organization and Atlanta-based American Cancer Society to prevent cervical cancer through screening programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. CDC is also focusing on the growing issue of uncontrolled hypertension in low- and middle-income countries, which is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Through the Global Standardized Hypertension Treatment Project, CDC is drawing on its experiences from the mass scale-up of HIV and tuberculosis treatment to provide more people in the developing world with access to hypertension treatment. The Emory Global Diabetes Research Center is working to understand the causes and consequences of diabetes, strokes, hypertension, and heart disease, investigate prevention methods, and inform policies related to NCDs. Most recently, the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University partnered with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the Public Health Foundation of India, to build India’s capacity to prevent and control NCDs.

Any global health effort to address NCDs will require a comprehensive strategy that includes prevention as a cornerstone. In the United States alone, smoking cessation and other prevention measures could reduce annual cancer deaths by half. Vaccines are a powerful tool for preventing cancers caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B. The widespread availability of HPV vaccine is expected to significantly reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer in high-income countries, but this vaccine has been priced out of reach for most developing countries. One of the exceptions is Rwanda, which has demonstrated the potential for even low-income counties to undertake successful NCD prevention initiatives. Using an existing robust vaccination system and a donation of two million doses of HPV vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Merck, Rwanda successfully rolled out HPV vaccine nationwide in 2011. An estimated 95% of eligible girls received the vaccine during the country’s first vaccination campaign.

In mounting this unprecedented prevention effort, Rwanda recognized that cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer among women in the country, and other NCDs threaten its economic development and poverty reduction goals. Other low- and middle-income countries could develop similar immunization programs with adequate resources and support from donors and the global health community. The Decatur-based Task Force for Global Health is exploring how its strength in working with pharmaceutical companies and other governmental and civil society partners to deliver donated vaccines and medicines to the developing world could be useful in developing large-scale prevention programs for cervical and liver cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other NCDs. The expertise and capacity of other Georgia global health organizations could be extremely beneficial to the development of large-scale NCD prevention and control programs.

NCDs threaten to erode the major health gains that have been made in recent years in countries around the world. Durable alliances of many partners are needed to sustain the efforts that will be needed to address NCDs. Many of Georgia’s global health organizations are already working on NCDs and could leverage their expertise and resources to affect the issue both globally and locally through an alliance. NCDs will necessarily become a greater focus of the global health community in the coming decades if the issue continues to grow unabated. But there is great urgency now to address NCDs – and alliances must be part of the solution. I look forward with great optimism to supporting Georgia’s global health organizations in working together to address NCDs and other large-scale global health issues through a Georgia Global Health Alliance.

– Co-authored by Poul E. Olson

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Tobacco Use Epidemic Places Heavy Burden on Low- and Middle-Income Countries

By Brandon Talley

 Talley is associate vice president for programs, Tobacco Control at the CDC Foundatio

Talley is associate vice president for programs, Tobacco Control at the CDC Foundation

Infectious and chronic diseases take a tremendous toll on the world’s population, but none takes a greater one than tobacco use, which represents the leading cause of death and disease. More than 100 million people lost their lives to tobacco use in the 20th century, and if current smoking patterns continue, tobacco-related deaths will reach around 1 billion in the 21st century, according to The Tobacco Atlas. But the devastating global effects of tobacco use are highly preventable by implementing scientifically proven interventions.

Some intervention options include the implementation of smoke-free environments; providing help and support to quit smoking; graphic warning labels on tobacco products; enforcing bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco; and raising taxes on tobacco products. But to implement and measure effective interventions, countries need robust tobacco use data. With this information, countries can measure the extent of the tobacco epidemic as well as the actual impact of any intervention.

A Field Interviewer contracted to carry out the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) in Malaysia shows off one of the 75 hand held electronic data recorders provided to the survey team by the World Health Organization. Five of the units are held in reserve as back ups in case of any problems during the eight week survey, which is also supported by the CDC Foundation.

A Field Interviewer contracted to carry out the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) in Malaysia shows off one of the 75 hand held electronic data recorders provided to the survey team by the World Health Organization. Five of the units are held in reserve as back ups in case of any problems during the eight week survey, which is also supported by the CDC Foundation.

To help curb the tobacco epidemic and systematically monitor global tobacco use prevalence and track tobacco control indicators, the CDC Foundation has partnered for eight years with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and other national and international partners to support implementation of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS). GATS, which is supported in part by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a nationally representative household survey of adults 15 years of age or older.

The survey has been completed in 28 countries, with two countries having conducted repeat surveys. The data collected through GATS covers over 3.6 billion adults—more than 68 percent of the world’s adult smokers. Plans are underway to repeat GATS in 11 countries over the next two years. The data generated will be used to evaluate tobacco control interventions and measure tobacco control progress in low- and middle-income countries where the health-related and economic burden of tobacco use is particularly heavy.

Respondents take part in a survey conducted by the Info Survey Group, contracted as part of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) with support from the CDC Foundation. Launched in Malaysia in 2010, the survey is helping the Institute for Public Health compile data on adult tobacco use habits that can ultimately be used by the Ministry of Health to combat tobacco usage.

Respondents take part in a survey conducted by the Info Survey Group, contracted as part of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) with support from the CDC Foundation. Launched in Malaysia in 2010, the survey is helping the Institute for Public Health compile data on adult tobacco use habits that can ultimately be used by the Ministry of Health to combat tobacco usage.

Additionally, over the next three years, GATS will be implemented in three additional countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Compared to many other regions, tobacco use in sub-Saharan Africa remains relatively low, but according to WHO, consumption in the region is rising as tobacco companies are globally targeting underdeveloped markets. The implementation of GATS in sub-Saharan Africa provides a unique opportunity to curb tobacco use in the region by enhancing tobacco control and surveillance capacity there.

Monitoring the tobacco epidemic through the implementation of GATS represents a critical component of a comprehensive tobacco control program. Data collected through GATS provides stakeholders with scientific information to overcome challenges in developing, implementing and evaluating effective national tobacco control policies and programs. At the CDC Foundation, we are pleased to have a role in helping to facilitate this vital work.

Ahidah Binti Mohammed Din (right), a Field Supervisor for the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) in Malaysia, speaks with other GATS survey team members while conducting interviews in the community of Behrang in the Perak state of Malaysia. The GATS teams members often work long and irregular hours to carry out the comprehensive tobacco survey.

Ahidah Binti Mohammed Din (right), a Field Supervisor for the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) in Malaysia, speaks with other GATS survey team members while conducting interviews in the community of Behrang in the Perak state of Malaysia. The GATS teams members often work long and irregular hours to carry out the comprehensive tobacco survey.

Talley is associate vice president for programs, Tobacco Control at the CDC Foundation

 Photos © David Snyder/CDC Foundation

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Nepal Earthquake: United in tragedy

By Holly Frew, CARE’s Emergency Communications Officer based in Atlanta (except when deployed to an emergency.)

It is hard to fathom that in a matter of seconds, an entire village could be turned into a heap of rubble. But that’s exactly what happened in Baruwa, a village in Nepal.

Holly Frew, CARE’s Emergency Communications Officer

Holly Frew, CARE’s Emergency Communications Officer

Like many of these remote villages, access to Baruwa has been cut off by landslides from the earthquake. The only way to get in is by helicopter or foot, so our team drove as far as we could by car, and then hiked the remaining 6 miles to Baruwa where we camped overnight to make plans to help this village.

As we made the three-hour trek in the heat of the day, I did not realize the level of needs and destruction that lay ahead of us, but I had an idea after we hiked over a treacherous landslide. The higher we hiked, the higher the level of damage seemed to get.

We finally arrived in Baruwa exhausted to find a village sprinkled with piles of rubble and makeshift tents. We learned that in the entire village district around 500 houses, and 1000 buildings, including shops, schools, health clinics and barns were completely destroyed. The number of buildings still standing? Maybe five total.

CARE emergency supplies arrive by truck from India to Nepal. Credit: CARE

CARE emergency supplies arrive by truck from India to Nepal. Credit: CARE

As we explored the village, there were people working together everywhere trying to salvage whatever they could from the rubble and debris. One of their biggest concerns was food.  So many people lost their food when their houses came down, and with monsoon season coming, they have no shelter to house their upcoming wheat harvest. I saw people sifting through bags of millet seeds that they had pulled from their damaged homes tediously trying to separate the millet seeds from the dirt and sand, so they could have more food to eat.

The people of Baruwa have lost everything, but as we stepped into their lives, a beautiful sight began to emerge. They have united like one big family supporting each other through this tragedy. They are grieving together, cooking and eating together, pooling whatever assets they have left together and living together.

As an aid worker, I don’t usually cry when responding to an emergency. There is so much work to be done in such a rapid pace that emotions take a backseat, and there is often a level of disconnect due to language barriers that keeps emotions intact. But then I met 19-year-old Pasang who broke those emotional barriers. She lost her home and her entire family in the earthquake. The remaining closest family member is her sister-in-law. She is seemingly all alone, but the people in the village have taken her in as family.

Every night Pasang holds a Buddhist puja on the mound of rubble that used to be her home and she lights candles to honor her dead family members. A puja is an act of worship to a god or higher power. Outside the collapsed monastery, a community puja is held where everyone in the village worships and prays to honor those who died and those impacted by the earthquake.

Just two weeks after the earthquake, people are still grieving their deep losses here and simply trying to salvage what’s left of their homes. Thoughts and plans of how to rebuild are not really on their minds, but their need for food and stronger shelter are, as they are terrified of the approaching monsoon season.

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A Long-Term Need: Nepal Earthquake Relief

By Kipp Branch, Senior Medicines Officer, MAP International

Kipp Branch, Senior Medicines Officer, MAP International

Kipp Branch, Senior Medicines Officer, MAP International

Most of the world is aware that just a little over a week ago a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal, killing an estimated 7,000 people and potentially wounding tens of thousands more.

MAP International and many other NGO’s immediately responded to the critical need of the Nepalese people by providing medical aid, food, shelter and clean water.

Nine days out, the search-and-rescue efforts are near complete with a handful of very lucky people still being pulled from the rubble.  NDRF, India’s National Disaster Response Force, which had the largest presence on the ground, has now pulled out of Nepal.  Now we move into the recovery and rehabilitation phase.

Communities have to be rebuilt, health care infrastructure is pushed beyond capacity, food and water needs are ongoing.  The NGO community and world will be in Nepal to assist the Nepalese people for quite some time.  Nepal faces a tough long term recovery as the country continues to dig out in the wake of this natural disaster.  The UN estimates that roughly 8 million people were affected by this disaster.

Patients being treated in Nepal following the earthquake.  Photograph: International Medical Corps

Patients being treated in Nepal following the earthquake. Photograph: International Medical Corps

There’s a tendency to think that since the search-and-rescue efforts are coming to a close that relief efforts will slow, but the reality is that now the recovery begins.  Now we try and ensure that proper medicines and supplies are on the ground to help the medical teams dealing with the wounded and other medical issues that arise for natural disasters, prevention of cholera and other outbreaks are essential.

To meet the anticipated long-term need in Nepal, MAP is airlifting in 5 IEHK’s (Interagency Emergency Health Kits) that will treat 50,000 people for 90 days and is preparing 20ft shipping containers filled with essential medicines and supplies that will aid in long-term relief efforts.

The Facts:

  • 7.8 magnitude earthquake
  • Nearly 6,000 reported dead
  • Over 11,000 reported wounded
  • Airport has severe damage and logistics are difficult

MAP’s Response:

  • 30 MAP Medical Mission Packs, worth $330,000 arrived in Nepal with ACTS World Relief on Wednesday.  They can treat 6,000+ people.
  • An IEHK (Interagency Emergency Health Kit) is currently in route to Nepal for International Medical Corps.  It will land on Friday and will treat 10,000 people for 90 days.
  • 3 additional IEHK’s are being prepared now and will head to Nepal in the coming days.
  • 6 pallets of oral rehydration salts are being airlifted in to combat dehydration.
  • Multiple container shipments are being prepared with antibiotics and other essential relief items for long term recovery.
  • MAP’s current medicines on the ground are being used at Sheer Adventist Hospital and Mobile Medical Clinics near the epicenter.
MAP medicines arrived in Nepal with ACTS World Relief on Wednesday following the quake.

MAP medicines arrived in Nepal with ACTS World Relief on Wednesday following the quake.

MAP International works through our valued partners on the ground, like International Medical Corps, ACTS World Relief, Convoy of Hope and many others to ensure that our medicines reach those in most need through trusted medical professionals.  In relief situations like this, working together is key in ensuring a rapid response.

We urge you to join with us in the recovery efforts in Nepal either by donating to MAP International or one of our trusted partners listed on CNN’s Giving List.

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Improving Health Data to Improve Health Outcomes in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

By Cho-Yau Ling

Cho-Yau Ling, senior program officer at the CDC Foundation

Cho-Yau Ling, senior program officer at the CDC Foundation

Each year, more than 50 million people die around the globe and for many, the actual cause of death is never recorded. That fact alone is quite troubling, but a critical carry-on issue is that not knowing the cause of death presents a major obstacle in developing data-driven policies that can improve public health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries.

Last month, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Australian government announced a new Data for Health initiative that will assist 20 low- and middle-income countries across Latin America, Asia and Africa in strengthening their public health data systems and use of data for critical policy-making decisions. This innovative $100 million effort is aimed at solving the world’s most pressing public health problems using technology and data to help fill major gaps in global health. Bloomberg Philanthropies describes the initiative as seeking to provide governments, aid organizations, and public health leaders with tools and systems to better collect data—and use it to prioritize health challenges, develop policies, deploy resources, and measure success.

The CDC Foundation is honored to partner with Bloomberg Philanthropies in one aspect of the initiative. In this work, the CDC Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will support dedicated government staff in-country to strengthen birth and death registration systems and improve information on cause of death. In addition, this partnership will support and convene experts to create the best-in-class mobile phone risk factor surveys for noncommunicable diseases. Finally, the partnership will help in-country, CDC-supported Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) residents and National Public Health Institute staff improve capacity in Ministries of Health to use health data to inform policy development.

We are grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the Australian government, for funding this initiative that will gather vital health data, target resources and save lives. More than 1.2 billion people will be impacted by this project, living in countries with improved capacity to use data to inform critical public health decisions.

Ling is a senior program officer with the CDC Foundation

New Data for Health initiative will assist low- and middle-income countries in strengthening data collection for addressing public health challenges.

New Data for Health initiative will assist low- and middle-income countries in strengthening data collection for addressing public health challenges.

 

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Idyllic? Maybe. Resilient? Definitely. From the Front Lines of Cyclone Pam

By Tom Perry, CARE.

Tom Perry works in emergency communications for aid organization CARE

Tom Perry works in emergency communications for aid organization CARE

When people talk about the South Pacific and countries like Vanuatu, they often use words like ‘idyllic’, ‘relaxed’ or ‘peaceful’. And yes, there are plenty of parts of the South Pacific that fit those descriptions.  Yet Cyclone Pam, the worst natural disaster to hit the region in recorded history last month, has, for at least a little while, changed the world’s image of the country. Images of lush green islands and cozy lagoons, usually in the newspaper’s Travel section, have been replaced by photos of homes that have been flattened.

But for those who know the Pacific, it’s far more complex than the postcards would suggest. Getting from one part of a country like Vanuatu to another can take weeks. Boats are completely unreliable and dangerous. Gas – the lifeblood of travel in the Pacific – is extraordinarily expensive, and plane flights are reserved for the lucky few that can afford them. This makes getting to everyday essentials – clean water, markets to buy and sell food, schools or medical clinics – a huge task.

Yet people of Vanuatu are adaptable, tough and fiercely proud of their way of life. They’ve used the knowledge of their ancestors to grow, cultivate and market international-quality crops and livestock in some of the toughest terrains on the planet. They’ve pushed phone companies to expand into areas that are unlikely to be commercially viable because they know, better than most, how important a simple cyclone or tsunami warning SMS can be for communities that are a 10 hour boat ride from others.

CARE Scene of the storm’s impact in Vanuatu.

Scene of the storm’s impact in Vanuatu. Credit: CARE

 

This toughness, this resilience, is one of the most remarkable stories of Cyclone Pam. Within days of the cyclone hitting, people were out in the street, many on empty stomachs and with little water, lifting destroyed iron sheets into piles and chopping away at timber.

I arrived in the Vanuatu capital Port Vila on Sunday 15 March, and with Cyclone Pam’s winds and rains still lingering in the south of the country, there was a darkness, both literally and emotionally, that was hard to miss. The airport was still officially closed; it looked like it’d been bombed. Yet within 24 hours, the roads were full of people lining up for gas and chopping at trees strewn across their path.

The energy to get on with recovery and rebuilding was everywhere, and it was infectious. When I was passing through Port Vila’s Freshwota area four days after the storm, I stopped to see a family pulling apart a huge structure made of iron and timber. Robert, the elderly man who was leading the charge, told me that it was the entire roof of the nearby government building that had blown 100 miles through the air, and that sitting underneath it was the flattened shell of his former home.

Shocked, I put my arm on Robert’s shoulder and asked if he was ok.

“Well,” Robert told me with a half-smile. “It’s not too bad. Now I have some great new materials for my new home.”

And this remarkable positivity – this resilience – is reflected across the country.

Yet make no mistake, despite this resilience, Cyclone Pam has been a massive disaster for the people of Vanuatu. It has destroyed 15,000 homes, left much of the country without food or clean drinking water, and blown away around 90 per cent of the country’s crops.

This disaster needs, and will continue to need, a massive response from the international community.

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