Archive for December 2007
MSF has highlighted the top ten most underreported humanitarian stories of 2007:
“…Drug-resistant tuberculosis spreads as new drugs go untested
Every year, tuberculosis (TB) kills an estimated two million people and another nine million develop the disease. In spite of the rising human toll, there have been no advances in treatment since the 1960s and the most commonly used diagnostic test—sputum smear microscopy—was developed in 1882 and only detects TB in half of the cases.
An estimated $900 million is needed annually for research and development for TB, but only $206 million is invested worldwide. Existing treatments and diagnostics are even less adapted for people living with HIV/AIDS, the easiest prey for the TB bacilli. And for those who become infected with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) — more than 450,000 people every year — or develop it as a result of incomplete treatment, the prospects for survival are even bleaker. The only guarantee for the few who are able to access treatment for MDR-TB is up to 24 months of ingesting a daily cocktail of highly toxic and expensive drugs that often trigger violent side effects.
In MSF programs in Armenia, Abkhazia, Georgia, Cambodia, Kenya, Thailand, Uganda, and Uzbekistan, even under the best conditions, only 55 percent of MDR-TB patients completed the 18 to 24 month treatment. The remaining proportion died, did not improve, or stopped treatment altogether because of side effects. Adding to the frustration for medical staff on the TB pandemic’s front line is the fact that not all new drugs are being tested in the neediest patients — those with MDR-TB.
A recent article authored by international experts and published in the open-source medical journal PLoS Medicine, called for the testing of new drugs in patients whose TB is resistant to standard treatment. This approach could make it easier to detect anti-TB activity of new drugs and ultimately accelerate drug development.
Living precariously in Colombia’s conflict zones
Largely fuelled by a fight over control of the narcotics trade, Colombia’s decades-old civil war often makes headlines, but its impact on the civilian population of the country is rarely the focus of attention.
Over the years, as many as 3.8 million people have been driven from their homes by violence brought on by government troops, paramilitary, and rebel forces battling for territorial control, ranking Colombia third in the world after Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the largest number of internally displaced people. Armed groups have a stranglehold on roughly half of Colombia’s rural areas, depriving civilians of access to health care by making roads impassable, forcibly conscripting children into militias, and murdering those suspected of collaborating with rivals.
These civilians are equally treated with suspicion of potentially collaborating with armed groups by Colombia’s armed forces and often face harsh reprisals as a result. In desperation, families flee their homes for urban slums with little more than the clothes on their backs; and when they arrive, looking for work and shelter, they often find conditions that are as threatening as those they fled.
Their new homes are overcrowded shacks without adequate facilities. The living conditions can lead to respiratory infections and diarrheal disease, but there is little access to health care. There are also very few internally displaced persons who have the option of returning safely to the homes they were forced to abandon. MSF has a presence in 13 of Colombia’s 32 departments, working in isolated rural areas through mobile and stationary clinics and in urban areas where displaced families have gathered.
Teams provide medical care ranging from vaccinations to reproductive care and emergency services, and offer psychological care to victims of violence. As the conflict in Colombia rolls into its sixth decade and armed groups continue to target civilians in their war for control, many Colombians do not remember a time when daily life was not ruled by guns and terror.
As Chechen conflict ebbs, critical humanitarian needs still remain
It has been nearly four years since the most intense fighting subsided between Russian government and rebel forces in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya. Tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who had fled to the neighboring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan, have returned to Chechnya.
At the same time, reconstruction has increased in the Chechen capital, Grozny, the scene of indiscriminate bombing less than a decade ago, and the republic’s airport has been reopened. Yet the Caucasus region remains highly volatile. Fighting outside Chechnya has increased and a large military presence still inhabits the region. Abductions, disappearances, assassinations, and bombings continue in Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and Dagestan.
Inside Chechnya, the security situation is still precarious for civilians. Dangers may range from being caught in the middle of sporadic gunfire to getting into a car accident involving heavy military vehicles, the latter recently having become a common cause of trauma. Basic health services, particularly in the areas of obstetrical and gynecological care, are woefully lacking and, when available, remain out of reach for many impoverished returnees.
Through clinics in and around Grozny, MSF and local Chechen doctors see a population with high levels of chronic illness, including lung, kidney, and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, the MSF teams also witness widespread needs for psychosocial care, caused by years of exposure to violence and displacement.
An MSF survey of IDPs living in temporary accommodation centers in Ingushetia and Chechnya found that nearly all the people interviewed were suffering from anxiety, insomnia, or depression. Chechnya’s wars also took their toll on the republic’s tuberculosis (TB) control system. As a result, MSF supports TB hospitals serving a population of 400,000. And many survivors of the wars still need care for crippling injuries.
MSF has tried to meet some of this need by operating a reconstructive surgery program in Grozny hospital No. 9 since 2006.”
Something to think about as we celebrate the coming New Year.
Nothing too serious, so let’s review some strange cases in 2007 with the Times:
“14. In 2005, Pavel M., a Romanian prisoner serving 20 years for murder, sued God, founding his claim in contract. He argued that his baptism was an agreement between him and God under which, in exchange for value such as prayer, God would keep him out of trouble..”
I send seasonal greetings to all readers and in the spirit of irreverence I hope that this YouTube video will cheer you up:
So to remind us of George Galloway’s affection for Saddam Hussein, I present:
ah, the wonders of modern technology, even Galloway has difficulty lying his way out of that one.
Hibaaq Osman is interviewed and the point was made that the UN’s International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS) initially only covered ten countries and excluded most parts of the Middle East and North Africa:
“Tired of attending international conferences where Arab women were being discussed as victims, and reading reports which excluded their views and experiences, she started the organisation both to empower women to confront the violence within their own societies, and to provide accurate information to the international community.”
More information on Karama here.