Asian Correspondent, September 2012
Leading rotavirus expert Dr. Tony Nelson discusses the potential of rotavirus vaccines to protect Asia's most vulnerable children.
I've been traveling the past three weeks in Bangladesh and West Bengal visiting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) organizations and their field programs.
I've covered a fair amount of ground and have seen the work of international as well as local NGOs.
With the devastating flooding in Pakistan, health and aid officials are once again sounding the global alarm to prevent outbreaks of diarrhea.
WHO projects that up to 1.5 million cases of diarrheal diseases could occur in Pakistan over the next three months.
This same problem emerged quickly following the Haiti earthquake in January of this year, and appears every time cyclones, flooding, or earthquakes decimate a community. These crisis outbreaks of diarrhea tend to get attention, but what about the common tragedy of children dying from diarrhea every day?
This week, PATH is co-hosting a symposium – along with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health and Vietnam’s National Pediatric Hospital – on the importance of taking an integrated approach to defeating diarrheal disease.
The gathering will bring together health professionals from around the Mekong Delta region.
In July, zinc for the treatment of diarrhea was officially listed as an essential drug by the Ministry of Health in Vietnam. This capped a two year effort of policy consultations, evidence review and advocacy. As a result of this listing, by law, zinc must now be made available free of charge to children under five through both the public sector and the private insurance systems. This should tremendously increase the coverage and availability of this critical intervention.
Rivann and I are on way to Baray Health Center in Kampong Thom province to observe and speak with health center staff and Village Health Support Group (VHSG) members. We’ll learn from them the effects of childhood pneumonia and diarrheal disease in their villages and how integrated training on the two biggest killers of children is crucial in improving the health of their communities. VHSG are volunteer village health workers in Cambodia who educate community members on pertinent health issues and also refer patients to seek proper care at health centers or hospitals.
A young inpatient recovers from severe diarrhea, a bandage on his small hand the remnant of emergency IV rehydration.
By the second open-air hospital, I knew better than to look for water fountains. The sealed plastic bottles conspicuously tucked into each cup-holder in our Ministry-provided, four-wheel-driven convoy were a pretty strong hint, too. Where we were headed, running water was a luxury. This was not my norm. I was a stranger here, warmly welcomed but still alien.
It was just a conference room in Delhi, not the Taj Mahal by any means. No lapis lazuli or other luxuries. (Although many would consider the flush toilets, hot water, and soap in the bathrooms down the hall as luxuries).
As India announced in January 2012 that it has been polio free for a year, the bigger story that missed the headlines may have been the fact that the Indian States of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – which have long been the endemic states - have remained virus free for even longer. Uttar Pradesh has been free of the deadly P1 virus for the past 25 months and from the P3 virus for the past 22 months, while Bihar has been free from the polio virus for 16 months.