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By Binta Diallo, Global Health Issue Analyst

Eleven months after the earthquake hit Haiti, the country is now faced with its worst health challenge; cholera.  As of November first, the cholera outbreak in central Haiti had killed more than 250 people and infected more than 3,000 people.  Until the current outbreak, cholera has not been documented to be found in Haiti since the 1960s.  Due to the lack of familiarity with the disease, many people are said to be frightened by the news of the outbreak and unsure of what steps to take to avoid the disease.

For those of you unfamiliar with cholera here are some key details about the disease.  Cholera is an acute infection of the small intestine that causes a large amount of watery diarrhea and vomit.  It is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.  The diarrhea and vomiting leads to severe dehydration, and can become deadly within 24 hours if left untreated.  It is easily treated through rehydration and antibiotics however may be difficult in Haiti’s current poor sanitary conditions.

Although, it is very tempting to link the outbreak to the January earthquake, it is very uncertain as to where the outbreak came from.  Many experts including Dr. Brigitte Vasset from the international organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Paris are reluctant in linking the outbreak directly with the quake.  Sanitary conditions were poor in many parts of Haiti even before earthquake.  In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that after the earthquake while cholera testing should have been carried out, the disease was “extremely unlikely to occur.”  Many health experts agree that for cholera to occur, bad sanitation and hygiene have to coincide with people carrying the Vibrio cholerae bacterium.

There are many other hypotheses of how the disease appeared in Haiti.  Read the rest of this entry »

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By Binta Diallo, Global Health Issue Analyst

Recently, the Obama Administration announced that they were going to be allocating $4 billion to the Global Fund.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Global Fund, it is an international “bank” that distributes funds and appropriate resources to the fight against AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.  The Global Fund is currently contributing to about 144 countries around the world.  During a recent meeting with the donors in New York, it was announced that countries will be contributing a total of $11.7 billion USD for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next three years. Note that this is less than what they previously said would be the worst case scenario of $13 billion. $4 billion of the total amount comes from the U.S, which the biggest contribution from any country, and would be a 38 percent increase of US contributions from the last three years. Although the pledge of $4 billion from the US increased from previous years, it is still not enough. Since the Global Fund works to fight against the spread of AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis throughout the world, the financial need is extremely high. Based on the projected needs ($13 billion to keep treatment at current levels) and failed commitments by other nations, the US pledge ends up being very small.

Questions about the management and accountability of the Global Fund seem to have affected the magnitude of countries’ monetary commitments. An U.S official said that the US pledge could potentially increase if the Global Fund and participating countries “improve their management of grants, work to avoid duplication of efforts, improve accountability and monitoring.”

This brings up the question: why should the administration pledge more funds if their money is not being used efficiently?  Read the rest of this entry »

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