The Huffington Post, April 2015
As part of the blog series "WASH and the MDGs: The Ripple...
This morning I awoke to some rare good news regarding Ebola. Nigeria has been declared Ebola-free by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.
And once again we hear what many of us already know: ORS saves lives. According to the Associated Press story, aggressive use of ORS is being credited with significantly reducing the mortality rate among those who contracted the disease in Nigeria. (Nigeria Declared Ebola-free; “Spectacular Success”). From the story:
“Officials are crediting strong tracking and isolation of people exposed to the virus, and aggressive rehydration of infected patients to counter the effects of vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms.”
“Dr. Simon Mardel, one of the world's leading experts on viral hemorrhagic fevers, said the number of deaths could be cut in half if infected people were taught to properly hydrate themselves and do not take anti-inflammatory drugs, which can actually harm Ebola victims… [He] called rehydration a low-tech approach that has been neglected by a medical system focused on groundbreaking research.”
ORS has been around for 40 years. Its cheap, easy to prepare, and highly effective.
Its important, though, that we message ORS use correctly. It does not stop diarrhea. It rehydrates or prevents dehydrationcaused by diarrhea and hemorraghic infections like Ebola. Those who understand the importance of “water out, water in” fully appreciate the value of ORS. Ebola, like cholera, requires aggressive and sustained use of ORS, which can be challenging for those who are really sick, but clearly it can save their lives.
Countries that have had long histories battling cholera tend to have higher coverage or ORS because they have come to understand the importance of rehydration. During outbreaks, ORS is often distributed widely, and people in these countries now appreciate its simple, lifesaving power.
In the countries currently reeling from Ebola, I am sure that similarly aggressive distribution supported by messages that reinforce the importance of hydration are underway, and that they too will come to realize the value of ORS, just as Nigeria has.
For more information:
-- Evan didn't plan a career in diarrhea. But when he learned about the global crisis and its solutions, it just became obvious.
-- About ORS, the simple mixture responsible for saving millions of lives (and counting).
Photo credit: PATH/Tony Karumba.Read more
“Shh” is a very important sound in my toddler’s ever-expanding lexicon. The dominant – or, at the very least, the most fun – sound in many of her attempts at communication, “shh” can mean fish, shoe, brush. It can tell Mommy to please stop reading that book because it’s time to get serious about this nap. And just recently, “shh” took on a different meaning and my new personal favorite: “wash.”
With a little bit of help each morning, Hazel steps up on the big kids’ stool at school to wash her hands. Chubby fingers under the running water, the pump of soap in her palm, the bubbles that she gets to rub around all on her own… It’s pure sensory delight! At home, before we eat, or when we come back inside from her ever-vigilant hunt for rocks, when I ask if she wants to wash her hands, Hazel lights up and exclaims, “Shh!”
Little does she know, my daughter is doing much more for her wellbeing than the simple joy that slippery suds bring. This littlest WASH advocate is perpetuating good hygiene and good health with one of the simplest measures around. And by keeping her own hands clean, she’s sharing the benefits of handwashing with her classmates and family, too: breaking the cycle of transmission that circulates the bacteria and viruses that cause diarrhea, pneumonia, and even the common cold. Sure, her hands will get grubby again, and she’ll even get her share of runny noses this season. But with routine handwashing, Hazel is doing her part to keep us all healthy.
Here’s to a Happy Global Handwashing Day for Hazel, her classmates, and all the little and big ones this lifesaving tool can keep healthy. This “shh” is certainly not something to keep quiet about!
I’m pleased to share that PATH’s Vaccine Resource Library (VRL) debuted a brand-new look and mobile-friendly design this week, taking the site to yet another level of user-friendliness. The new look and feel enhances the site’s accessibility and features many engaging new photos. VRL users will be pleased to see that what has not changed is the extensive database of high-quality, scientifically accurate materials on specific diseases, vaccines, and topics in immunization addressed by PATH’s work.
This user-friendly, database-driven site grew out of PATH’s seminal Children’s Vaccine Program, which started in 1998. Since then, the VRL has gone through a number of changes and iterations over the years to reach its current status as a well respected, centralized repository for key global immunization resources.
The VRL features resources and links to information on a wide range of issues and diseases, including hefty sections with a variety of resources related to biggest cause of severe diarrhea, rotavirus (for which vaccines already exist), as well as the top bacterial causes of diarrhea, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Shigella (for which vaccines are still under development). We also have lots of broader resources that aren’t disease-specific on topics that are related to vaccines, such as advocacy and communications, childhood immunization, vaccine safety and performance, introduction and service delivery, and the major organizations and coalitions working in the vaccine arena.
So, whether you’re looking for something specific or just browsing, I hope that you’ll check out the spiffy-looking new VRL soon!
Photo credit: PATH.Read more
Monday, October 6th is World Habitat Day – an event created by the United Nations to draw international attention to the importance of the built environment in achieving development goals and to raise awareness of healthy shelters as a basic human right. This year’s theme, Voices from Slums, will draw global attention to the conditions in informal housing settlements around the world, facilitate the development and implementation of processes to alleviate the numerous problems faced by residents, and call upon both local and international policy-makers and leaders to address the manifold problems associated with slums in a substantive manner.
The sad reality is that the poorest and most vulnerable among us face the harshest and deadliest of living conditions. With rapid urbanization, dense and dangerous slums are a common feature in many cities around the world. High rates of disease and premature deaths are often hallmarks of these substandard living environments. Diseases of poverty, such as tuberculosis, malaria, and diarrheal illnesses, are rapidly transmitted and have devastating effects on the families and communities.
As an organization working at the intersection of architecture and public health, we at ARCHIVE Global address many of the issues highlighted by this annual event. We believe that healthy homes are vital to health and well-being. We work in some of the world’s most vulnerable environments to develop and deliver architectural interventions within impoverished communities. In Haiti, we are working on improving ventilation in a community suffering from the dual burden of TB and HIV/AIDs. In Cameroon, we are implementing interventions to reduce malaria rates in urban homes. In Camden, New Jersey, we are tackling the common indoor triggers of respiratory illnesses to combat crippling rates of asthma among children living in poverty. Our goal is two-fold. We implement cost-effective solutions that can be easily replicated and scaled up by the larger community, while also directly training community members on the most critical health issues and building practices to create a sustainable future for these communities.
A powerful way you can support our work and World Habitat Day is by signing our online petition urging world leaders to prioritize housing as an essential pillar of public health and, more broadly, development.
We are excited about High Fives, our new project in Savar, Bangladesh, where we are working with residents of a marginalized community to replace disease-spreading dirt floors with cleaner concrete floors. Over 750,000 children die each year as a direct result of diarrheal sickness. We want to drastically cut down that number. The fact is that this heavy morbidity and mortality is preventable. Dirt is literally a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria. High Fives is based on the public health principle that children who survive past their 5th birthday are more likely to live into adulthood.
High Fives will reduce rates of diarrheal diseases among children in one of the poorest communities in Bangladesh. Working with our local partners in Dhaka and with a team of dedicated and talented architects from various universities and firms, we have developed a cost-effective and scalable flooring project. We are replacing dirt floors with strong, cleanable concrete floors and empowering the local community with the financial resources and training needed to replicate this model.
This project is unique in that we’re using a crowd-funding model that allows and relies on individuals, organizations (such as schools, student groups, and clubs), and businesses to create their own campaigns to fund the floors for individual families. We hope that this project will allow donors and supporters to take on a more active and rewarding role as part of a high impact development project. We strongly believe that, working together, our supporters can deliver simple, powerful, and lifesaving housing solutions for families and communities around the world.
Photo credit: ARCHIVE Global, 2014Read more
Whenever Alfred breaks from a moving story or a passionate argument with this affable refrain, it’s meant to be rhetorical, like when someone ends a sentence with, “You know what I mean?” Implicitly, the answer is yes, but we don’t have to say it. Of course, we know; of course, we are together. To me, it is a subtle reminder that what makes us tick as human beings is the same no matter where we’re from, and one of those universal truths is that our hearts respond more to stories than they do to facts and figures.
Stories remind us that we’re all in this together.
At the recent Social Good Summit, which focused the ways social media and technology can help make the world a better place, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof used science to explain the warm fuzzies we get whenever we donate to charity, do volunteer work, or otherwise take action for a cause we care about: These activities increase oxytocin levels in our brains, the hormone associated with… well, warm fuzzies. It’s almost as if this is nature’s way of telling us that we are designed to help one another.
I’m lucky to have met most of the people featured in our new story series. In Kenya, I shared many meals and laughs with Alfred. In Zambia, I held Teresa’s youngest son, Vusi, just after he received the rotavirus vaccine that will protect him from the most fatal form of childhood diarrhea.
Whether you realize it or not, you know these people, too. You know mothers like Jane who offer advice and encouragement. You see a younger version of yourself – or maybe children of your own – in the boundless energy of Zambian schoolkids freestyling outside the school house.
That’s what I love about our new story series: it reminds us of our common humanity and our common responsibility to one another. And it provides a simple, yet powerful way to make a difference: by sharing these stories with others.
So if you’re thinking you’re a little low on oxytocin levels these days, do yourself – and the world – a favor, and share the stories that move you. It’s going to take a global village to create a world where no child dies from diarrhea. Will you lend your voice?Read more