Severe acute childhood malnutrition is expected to more than double this year in Haiti as the country struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, a spike in violence and dwindling resources, a UNICEF report said Monday.
More than 86,000 children under age 5 could be affected, compared with 41,000 reported last year, said Jean Gough, UNICEF’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“I was saddened to see so many children suffering from malnutrition,” she said after a weeklong visit to Haiti. “Some will not recover unless they receive treatment on time.”
Severe acute malnutrition is considered a life-threatening condition.
In a slightly less dangerous category, acute malnutrition in kids younger than 5 in Haiti has risen 61%, with some 217,000 children expected to suffer from it this year, compared with 134,000 last year.
Overall, UNICEF said, about 4.4 million of Haiti’s more than 11 million inhabitants lack sufficient food, including 1.9 million children.
Gough told The Associated Press during a recent visit to a hospital in the southern city of Les Cayes that UNICEF has only a one-month supply left of a special food paste given to children in need and is seeking $3 million by the end of June.
Officials said the pandemic also has disrupted health services, with childhood immunization rates dropping from 28% to 44%, depending on the vaccine. The decrease has led to a rise in diphtheria cases as health workers brace for an expected measles outbreak this year.
UNICEF noted that unvaccinated children also are more likely to die from malnutrition.
Lamir Samedi, a nurse who works at a community health center in the southern town of Saint-Jean-du-Sud, said the target was to vaccinate 80% of children in the area, but they had yet to reach 50%.
Among the children hospitalized is 11-month-old Denise Joseph, who lay quietly in a crib in Les Cayes after being diagnosed with tuberculosis two weeks ago.
“She never eats,” said her grandmother, Marie-Rose Emile, who is caring for the infant since her mother also is ill. Emile is struggling to provide for the baby, saying she has barely harvested any beans, corn or potatoes this year.
Gough, the UNICEF official, said she was discouraged by the dismal numbers of malnutrition and drop in childhood immunizations. She said more outreach services are needed because not enough people are visiting community health centers.
Among those visiting a health center for the first time was 27-year-old Franceline Mileon, who brought her young child after hearing a health official with a bullhorn in her neighborhood announcing that a vaccination program had begun. She sat on a bench, coddling her baby, as she waited for a nurse to weigh her.
Overall, UNICEF said it needs nearly $49 million this year to meet humanitarian needs in Haiti, adding that little of that amount has been pledged. The agency $5.2 million of that amount would go toward nutrition and $4.9 million for health, including childhood immunizations.
Pakistan reported Monday that the national coronavirus positivity rate had remained well below 5% over the past week, with the country’s top health official attributing the declining trend to “effective” government policies, including restrictions on public movement and effective screening of international travelers.Officials recorded 43 deaths and detected more than 2,100 new cases in the last 24 hours, raising the national tally of deaths to nearly 21,000 and infections to more than 921,000 since the pandemic hit the South Asian nation early last year.The national positivity ratio decreased to just over 4% from more than 11% a couple of weeks ago.Last week, health authorities reported the detection of the first case of a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus which has caused record infections and deaths in neighboring India, threatening Pakistan’s gains against the disease.But Faisal Sultan, an infectious disease physician who is also special assistant to the prime minister on national health services, told VOA that an “effective” screening system for international travelers and other measures to deal with the health crisis have so far enabled the country to keep the situation under control in a country of about 220 million.“I would say we are not out of the woods yet, but it seems at this point that I don’t foresee an India-like situation,” Sultan, who is directing all health-related interventions and measures against the pandemic, told VOA in a detailed interview at his office in Islamabad.People queue to receive the first shot of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Karachi, Pakistan, May 8, 2021.“We really do think that to reach our targets, we need to go over the 500,000 a day mark, perhaps the 600,000 a day mark. So, I think that we really need to ramp up our vaccinations.”Sultan said government surveys have found that “at least two-thirds” of the Pakistani population is willing to get vaccinated.“So, the vaccine centers will have to go close to their homes. It will have to be easy and accessible. It will have to be so easy that in the United States, even normal retail pharmacies were allowed to do the vaccination,” he said.Sultan said the government really needed “to get at least a quarter of its population” in dense urban areas vaccinated before Pakistan “can even talk about any relaxation” in coronavirus-related restrictions, including asking those inoculated against the disease to remove their masks.Health care systemPrime Minister Imran Khan’s government, which took office in August 2018, has from the outset focused on the country’s underfunded and largely neglected national health care system.The focus, Sultan noted, enabled the government to timely position itself to combat the pandemic, despite critical economic challenges facing Pakistan.“We added over 7,000 oxygenated beds into the health care system across Pakistan. The second expansion that was done is even more important — a 66% increase in the medical oxygen capacity was done. Had we not done that, we would have faced a crisis. We came to about 90% capacity in the ongoing third wave,” Sultan explained.A vendor refills oxygen cylinders which will supply private hospitals for COVID-19 patients, in Karachi, Pakistan, April 26, 2021.Pakistan initially received vaccine donations from close ally China to launch the national vaccination drive in early March before purchasing large quantities of vaccine doses to ensure supplies for the national campaign.“They came out, gifted us the first lot, although we had told them we can pay for it. But they insisted. I think it speaks volumes about the level of trust and cooperation between China and Pakistan,” Sultan said.The Pakistani government is using the Chinese-made Sinovac, Sinopharm and CanSino vaccines. It has also received just over a million doses of AstraZeneca under a United Nations-backed program for poor nations, known as COVAX.Pakistani officials say they are in conversations with several suppliers, and the government will have procured about 20 million additional vaccine doses by end of July.“The only challenge is, in an environment where everybody wants the vaccine, to have a steady supply so that you don’t run out of it. This is a challenge that will stay for the rest of the world,” Sultan said, noting that Pakistan was in talks with several suppliers to secure enough doses to sustain domestic supplies.Beijing has also trained Pakistani staff and established a facility at Islamabad’s National Health Institute, where the one-dose CanSino vaccine is being filled from the concentrate provided by China. Sultan noted that the rare facility has the capacity to roll out about 3 million doses of CanSino a month to help boost the vaccination drive.“It may be a small step for us that we have started filling the vaccine from concentrate. But it is a vital step toward actually manufacturing the vaccine in Pakistan, and I think it may take a few months,” he said.
For the first time since 2019 and following a flurry of net-zero pledges from the world’s largest emitters, UN climate negotiations resume Monday in a virtual format just six months before the crunch COP26 summit. The talks, nominally hosted by the United Nations climate change program in the German city of Bonn, will all be informal, meaning that no decisions will be taken during the three-week dialogue. But with increasingly dire warnings from scientists that the pace of global warming is already outstripping humanity’s best plan to cut emissions, the pressure for progress to be made on several thorny issues is high. In 2018, countries agreed to many elements of the Paris agreement “rulebook”, governing how each nation implements its goals. But several issues remain unresolved, including rules about transparency, carbon markets, and a unified timeframe for all countries to ratchet up their emissions cuts.At the last UN climate summit in December 2019, countries also failed to agree upon a universal system of reporting climate finance. Nathan Cogswell, a research associate at the World Resources Institute, said a deal on greater transparency was “a central component of the effective implementation of the Paris agreement”. “The upcoming session will hopefully help parties get closer to that.” One of the thorniest debates during recent UN climate talks has been Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which deals with the trade of emissions cuts. A major sticking point remains over rules to avoid double counting emissions reductions within both bi-lateral and international carbon markets. Some wealthy nations without the natural resources — forests, for instance — to mitigate their contribution to climate change have spent huge amounts on projects to preserve those habitats in other countries. Currently both the buying and selling nations may count the project towards their domestic climate action, opening the door for the same cut to be counted twice. Cogswell said that a failure to agree on a protection against double counting emissions reductions by the end of the COP26 in Glasgow in November would “weaken the ambition of global efforts” to fight climate change. ‘Not ideal’COVID-19 forced Britain and the UN to shelve talks originally scheduled for last year until the end of 2021. As the pandemic continues to rage, particularly among developing nations most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, negotiators will need to achieve tangible progress during the three-week Bonn talks. “The absence of a COP left a tremendous amount of work to be done… if we want to deliver at Glasgow,” said Marianne Karlsen, chair of a major technical forum at the UN-led negotiations. The two-week sessions — expanded this year to three — normally involve thousands of representatives from more than 180 countries, and often rely on behind-closed-doors bargaining between delegates to get deals done. Karlsen said the virtual configuration of talks was “not ideal at all”. “We really wanted to be able to have all the interactions of when we meet in person but there was no other option,” she said. Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, chair of the UN’s SBSTA technical working group, said delegates needed to use the virtual negotiations to “prioritize a way to capture progress, so we can capture that progress when we meet in person, and make decisions” in Glasgow. “It’s important that we send a clear message to the world: We are very much engaged in resolving the Paris rulebook and to tackling this climate change conundrum.”
About 40% of the more than 617,000 bridges in the U.S. are at least 50 years old, and of that number more than 46,000 are in dangerously poor condition. The job of bridge inspectors is to locate and identify their structural deficiencies. Svitlana Prestynska met with one such inspector and filed this report from Denver, Colorado, narrated by Anna Rice.
Record numbers of COVID-19 vaccinations have been completed in Australia as a snap seven-day lockdown continues in the nation’s second most-populous state.Seven million people in Victoria are subject to strict stay-at-home orders after a growing cluster of infections was detected in recent days. Australia has managed to mostly contain the coronavirus through lockdowns, the closure of its international borders and strict quarantine measures for returning citizens, but the national vaccination program has been beset by supply issues and hesitancy among many Australians.There are estimated to be 100 active coronavirus cases in Australia, according to the Health Department. About half are in Victoria, which is under a seven-day lockdown. It is the state’s fourth shutdown since the pandemic began.The number of infections in Australia is small compared to other countries, including Japan, Brazil and the United States.However, community transmission of the virus has been rare in recent months and the outbreak in Victoria is significant.There has been complacency in the community and mounting hesitancy about vaccines and possible side effects, which have delayed the national inoculation plan.Health authorities in Victoria, though, have said the lockdown has sent residents flocking to injection centers across the country in record numbers.However, some experts believe that it might be too late to prevent another wave of infections in Australia’s second most populous state.“We have been here before,” said Dr. Michelle Ananda-Rajah, an infectious diseases expert at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital. “I think, though, that the stakes are higher this time because we have all the factors for what is essentially a perfect storm. We have a largely unvaccinated population; we have winter approaching, and we have an unforgiving variant on the loose at the moment. You know, Victoria is primed at the moment for a third wave, and we need to do everything possible to prevent that from happening.”Melbourne, the Victoria state capital, endured Australia’s longest COVID-19 lockdown last year. Once again, the nation’s second-biggest city finds itself under tight restrictions.Masks are now mandatory. Places of worship and schools are closed. Victorians can only leave home for essential work, shopping, exercise, caregiving or to get a coronavirus vaccine.Businesses are facing heavy losses.A man infected with a highly contagious COVID-19 variant who stayed at a quarantine hotel for returning travelers is thought to be the source of the outbreak.Australia has recorded more than 30,000 coronavirus cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began, according to government statistics.