I started this blog for personal matters, to publish my art and literature, Now it seems I am turning this blog to a reporting media of Human abuse and Human being in wretched plight all around the World. I hope, We all citizen should rush to the crying and disturbing souls and help and support them. Protest and publicizing can help stop atrocities on public and bring safety measure to the mass under calamities.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ciudad Juarez's drug war death toll hits 3,000

Ciudad Juarez's drug war death toll hits 3,000

This year's death toll from drug-related violence in the north Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez has reached 3,000 - 10 times the figure recorded in 2007.
A woman reacts to seeing the body of one of her relatives in Ciudad Juarez (14 December 2010) A total of 7,386 people have been killed in Ciudad Juarez in the

The grim milestone was reached after two murders on Tuesday, the Chihuahua state attorney-general's office said.

Last year, 2,763 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez, 1,140 more than in 2008.

More than 30,000 people have died across Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the drug cartels in 2006.

Northern states have seen much of the violence, with cartels fighting each other for control of the lucrative drug smuggling routes to the US.

Exodus

Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for Chihuahua's attorney-general, announced on Tuesday that, with two weeks left in 2010, 3,000 murders had been recorded in Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million people.

The latest deaths were the result of two separate incidents, he said. One of the victims was a 35-year-old man found shot dead in a car, while the other murder saw a 46-year-old killed in front of his family.

Bridge between the United States and Mexico near El Paso, Texas Ciudad Juarez is situated just across the border from El Paso, where the murder rate is low

A total of 7,386 people had been killed in Ciudad Juarez in the past three years, he added. In 2007, about 300 people were murdered there.

Most of the victims were members of rival drug gangs, but civilians and members of the security forces were frequently targeted or caught in the crossfire, officials said.

In one incident in October, at least 14 people were killed when masked gunmen stormed a garden party and then shot indiscriminately at dozens of youths.

Thousands of people have fled the city in the wake of the violence.

Ciudad Juarez is situated just across the border from El Paso, Texas, a city with one of the lowest murder rates in the Unites States.

On Monday, hundreds of doctors and health workers in Ciudad Juarez went on a 24-hour strike in protest at the high number of threats and attacks they are subjected to.

This year, three medical workers have been killed and 11 kidnapped.

Map showing areas of influence of Mexican drug cartels





Source : BBC

Friday, December 10, 2010

Blasphemy trials in Pakistan reveal a broken justice system


Blasphemy trials in Pakistan reveal a broken justice system


Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 10
KULLUWAL, PAKISTAN - With its single dirt road, friendly residents and abundance of drowsing donkeys, this village hardly seems a hotbed of religious radicalism.

Nevertheless, four years ago, dozens of angry townspeople marched and chanted, "Death to the blasphemer!" Their demands were answered. Two years later, court records show, a teenaged Muslim named Muhammad Shafique was sentenced to hang for cursing the Prophet Muhammad and tossing pages of the Koran onto "cow dung and urine."

Today, an air of regret permeates Kulluwal. Shafique's accusers fled town, and their relatives now say the allegations were lies. Many residents call the case a setup fueled by political and personal rivalries. But as Shafique waits on death row, his appeal stuck in Pakistan's glacial courts, no one is quite sure what to do.

"The situation at that time was emotional. It was the responsibility of the police to sift through the facts and find the truth," said Chaudhry Safraz Ahmed, 42, a community leader whose father was one of Shafique's accusers. "That did not happen. And Shafique is behind bars."

Pakistan is in the midst of a heated debate over its ban on blasphemy following the sentencing to death last month of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi. The pope condemned that sentence, which has not yet been carried out. Human rights organizations, meanwhile, have demanded the repeal of a law that they say is used to harass religious and sectarian minorities in this Sunni Muslim-majority nation.

But blasphemy cases, about half of which involve Muslim suspects such as Shafique, also point to a more fundamental problem with grave implications for the nation's U.S.-backed fight against militancy: Pakistan's broken justice system, corrupt and lacking in expertise, often rewards vendettas and encourages radicalism.

In this system, religious extremism is less an epidemic than a menacing shadow - just as it is across Pakistan, an unstable democracy where Islamist threats often eclipse the majority's more peaceful views.

The law against blasphemy - which encompasses vaguely worded prohibitions on insults against Islam - gives radicals a tool with which to bully those who don't share their hardline religious views. Legal experts say lawyers, witnesses and authorities are frequently intimidated into helping to enforce the law, leading to injustices that bolster militants' anti-government arguments.

"These are the kind of provisions that allow space for extremists to act with impunity," Ali Dayan Hasan, a Pakistan-based representative for Human Rights Watch, said of the blasphemy law. "This country is, in that sense, at a crossroads where it is time for people to stand up."

Disputed account

Just what happened on the evening of March 17, 2006, in this agrarian corner of Punjab province remains in dispute. It took a court in the nearby city of Sialkot 73 hearings over 27 months to gather enough testimony for a verdict. Lawyers' strikes, witnesses' absences and a funeral caused delays. In the end, the key evidence against Shafique, now 22, was witness accounts and soiled scraps of pages from a Koran, which the judge deemed impossible to fake.

"The question arises whether . . . a Muslim can think to smear the pages of the Holy Book with cow dung and urine just to create an evidence to involve his opponents," the judge wrote in 2008. "Not an iota of evidence has been produced by the accused in this regard."

But Shafique's family, along with many others in Kulluwal, cite two reasons for such a plot. Shafique, an aspiring electrician, had accused his brother's wife of adultery. And her alleged paramour had powerful allies, among them a town politician with his own motive: Shafique's brother was challenging him in a village election.

Whatever the case, word of Shafique's alleged rampage spread, and a crowd beat him viciously, residents recalled. Qari Qadir, the village imam, said he declined requests to announce the offense over his mosque's loudspeaker, fearing a "serious situation." Instead, he led a march the next day at which protesters demanded that police file charges.

"Everybody was against him," said Ahmed, the community leader. "The police thought it could become a law-and-order situation if they did not take action."

According to court records, two main accusers - the politician and Ahmed's father - did not testify. Four young men who did gave nearly identical statements about seeing Shafique curse the prophet and rip the Koran.

Shafique testified that the charges were personal and political, and that he "heatedly" loved Allah.

The court sentenced Shafique to join about 7,600 others in Pakistan on death row, about 60 of whom are convicted blasphemers, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The country has not executed anyone since 2008, and blasphemy cases are often overturned on appeal.

But for many, that potential reprieve is little help. Suspects are often murdered in prison or after release, a fact one Pakistani court used to justify the blasphemy law - in prison, it reasoned, suspects are protected from public rage.


Blasphemy was outlawed during British colonial rule but made a capital crime in the 1980s under the Islamist military rule of Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. Now, the law is being scrutinized; a bill in parliament would shorten sentences, require evidence that the crime was committed intentionally and introduce punishment for false accusation.

But while recent international attention has galvanized opponents of the current law, it has also roused defenders. Conservative religious parties have threatened mayhem if the law is changed, an idea they deem a Western conspiracy. One cleric in northwest Pakistan went further, promising $6,000 to anyone who kills Bibi, the Christian woman.

'A baseless charge'

Amid this debate, Mirza Shahid Baig, Shafique's lawyer, sticks to technical arguments. The wrong police investigated, he said, and there was no serious look at Shafique's side of the story.

"I am a very true lover of the holy prophet, but this case was totally false," Baig said one recent afternoon at his dusty basement office in the bustling city of Lahore. "Whether the law is correct or not correct according to the morality, this is not my job."

In Kulluwal, most everyone seems to agree that a blasphemer deserves death. But they are certain Shafique was not one.

The investigators and witnesses who testified against him have all left town, and no one else recalls seeing Shafique's alleged rampage. Ahmed said his father is ready to recant in court.


"This is a baseless charge," said Ahmed, calmly sipping tea with Shafique's parents on a recent day. "The issue is religious, so it had an influence on the police. It interfered with the investigation."

Another resident, Mohammed Ibrahim, is the brother of the politician who accused Shafique and the father of one youth who testified. Ibrahim said his son has since told him he was pressured to lie, and that his brother forced police to file charges.

"He thought of himself as important, as someone who could not be challenged politically," Ibrahim said of his brother, who, he added, has moved to Canada.

To some Kulluwal residents, the whole affair proves elders should resolve disputes, not courts.

Shafique, meanwhile, writes letters to his family from solitary confinement. In one recent missive, he said that prison guards avoid touching him. He understands, he wrote, for he reserves no sympathy for blasphemers.

"My heart weeps for the innocent ones," he wrote. "But I have no words of sympathy for the sinners . . . I would have killed them myself if I could."

Hussain is a special correspondent.

Afghan law has done little for women - UN report


Afghan law has done little for women - UN report

Afghan women travel on horse-drawn cart in Kandahar city, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010. Things have improved little for many women, the report says

Millions of Afghan women continue to suffer from violence and harmful practices despite a new law aimed at curbing such abuse, the UN says.

In a new report, the UN spoke to women and men across the country, including officials and religious leaders.

The report paints a bleak picture of life for Afghan women in urban and rural areas among all ethnic groups.

Women still face "honour killings" and forced marriages nine years after the Taliban were ousted, it said.

The report blames insecurity and poverty caused by three decades of war, but it also says the government is not doing enough to protect women's rights.

A law was introduced last year to eliminate violence against women, but rather than implementing it, the police and courts were reinforcing harmful traditional practices, the report said.

Georgette Gagnon, the director of human rights at the UN's Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) said the law needs speedy and adequate enforcement.

"At the highest level we have recommended that the ministry of interior, the police, the judges, the courts, give out specific instructions, guidelines and supervise the activities of police in this area," she said.

The UN's report is embarrassing for the Afghan government and its Western backers, who often paint a rosy picture of how life for Afghan women has improved since the fall of the Taliban.

The government is often accused of tolerating a culture of impunity.

But it also faces the serious challenge of how to protect women's rights in lawless areas which are outside its control as the Taliban-led insurgency spreads.

Source : BBC


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 2010: Take Action for Human Rights

December 2010: Take Action


Source : Amnesty International


A 38-year old labour activist, Su Su Nway, is serving a sentence of eight and a half years in a remote prison in Myanmar because she put up an anti-government banner in Yangon.

In Mexico, Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, is being intimidated by gangs and officials for providing a safe refuge to migrants who are exploited by criminals.

A woman in Senegal, Khady Bassène, is still waiting for justice and to find out what happened to her husband who disappeared in 1999.

These are ordinary people involved in extraordinary struggles and we don’t want to forget them.

Write for Rights

That’s why we participate in Write for Rights. Every year around International Human Rights Day on 10 December, thousands of Amnesty International members and supporters get together. We write letters and sign petitions taking action for individuals facing the risk of human rights violations.

Father Solalinde arrested by municipal police in the town of Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca state, Mexico 10 January 2007. He was then briefly detained with 18 Guatemalan migrants.

Letter-writing works

Igor Sutyagin, who was in prison in Russia for more than 10 years says letter-writing really works. He said,“The officials, they know about these letters. They know that this person is somehow untouchable and I really want to ask you and all Amnesty members to continue that activity because that will help others. I think it’s very, very important.”

Demand that the rights of Su Su Nway, Father Alejandro, Khady Bassene and others are respected.

Take action Now

You can also participate in a letter-writing event. Enthusiastic volunteers have organised events even in countries where we don’t have an office. Click here and browse through the month of December to find out if there is an event happening near you.


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Individuals at Risk

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Each year hundreds of thousands of people mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December by taking part in Write for Rights, Amnesty International’s letter-writing marathon.

We write letters and take action online to demand that the rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. In doing so, we show solidarity with those suffering human rights abuses and try to bring about real changes to people’s lives.

All stamps

Join the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who will be writing letters and taking action online for 10 days in December. From Belgium to Benin and Switzerland to South Korea, Amnesty International events will take place around the world from 4-14 December 2010, to mark International Human Rights Day.

People will come together to Write for Rights by sending letters, emails, faxes, SMS messages and tweets, and signing petitions. Take action below.

Taking action can make a difference

In July 2010 the Egyptian authorities released Bedouin blogger and activist Musaad Suliman Hassan Hussein, known by his pen name Musaad Abu Fagr. He had been held without charge or trial for almost three years for calling for the rights of Bedouins in the Sinai to be respected.

Bu Dongwei spent over two years in a “Re-education Through Labour” camp in China until his release in July 2008, following campaigning by Amnesty International and others.

We're campaigning on behalf of ten different individuals this year. Take action below.

Appeals for action

Act now for Father Solalinde, Mexico

2 December 2010

Take action for Catholic priest Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, whose life is at risk because he has dedicated his life in Mexico to providing a place of safety for migrants.

Act now for Saber Ragoubi, Tunisia

6 December 2010

Take action for Saber Ragoubi, who was sentenced to death in Tunisia for belonging to a terrorist organization, which he denies. He was convicted on the basis of a “confession” under torture.

Act now for Femi Peters, Gambia

10 November 2010

Take action for Femi Peters, Campaign Manager for the opposition party in Gambia, who is serving a one-year prison sentence for holding a peaceful demonstration organized by his party.

Act now for Mao Hengfeng, China

10 November 2010

Take action for Mao Hengfeng, who serving 18 months "Re-education through labour" in China for her activist activities. She says she has been beaten.

Act Now for Khady Bassène, Senegal

10 November 2010

Take action for Khady Bassène, whose husband, Jean Diandy, was arrested by soldiers in Senegal in 1999. No one has seen him since and she is fighting for the truth about what happened to him.

Act now for Su Su Nway, Myanmar

8 November 2010

Take action for labour activist Su Su Nway, who is serving a sentence of eight years and six months in a remote prison, far from her family, for taking part in antigovernment protests.

Act now for Zelimkhan Murdalov, Russian Federation

8 November 2010

Take action for Zelimkhan Murdalov, who has not been seen since 2001, when he was detained in Chechnya in the Russian Federation.

Act now for Norma Cruz, Guatemala

1 November 2010

Norma Cruz, who fights for justice in cases of violence against women in Guatemala, has received dozens of death threats. Her aggressors have not been brought to justice

Act now for Walid Yunis Ahmad, Iraq

12 September 2010

Take action for Walid Yunis Ahmad, who has been held in detention by the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq for more than 10 years without charge or trial. He has been tortured.

Act now for Roma families forcibly evicted in Romania

26 January 2010

Take action for 100 Roma people, who have been forcibly evicted from their home in central Romania and need to be rehoused.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

TRIPURA HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION

TRIPURA HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION ( THRO)



A few days ago (from 20 Nov to 2 Dec.2010), I had visited a North Eastern State Tripura, in India. I looked for any news regarding Human Rights Violation or involving Human Rights activities. I talked to many people, but no one can shed light on this topics. I asked even a Sub-divisional Magistrate. There was no clue to be mentioned about human rights violation. People seemed peaceful and happy. My search was not finished and finally I came to know an organization through some of my close friends. The name of the Organisation is TRIPURA HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION ( THRO). I went to the office and met with general secretary, Mr. Purusuttam Roy Burman. An influential, powerful and intellectual man. A lawyer in profession. He provided me some reports and told me in brief the present state of human Rights in Tripura. I have been pleased by the action the organization took earlier.

Thank you.


The organisation has some upcoming project Local people can join them , and support. A statement in Bengali of their upcoming plan of action has been given below. (Readers can click the image to see enlarged or press ctrl and plus sign.)

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4.

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PREAMBLE
http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.


Article 1.
• All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
• Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
• Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
• No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
• No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
• Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
• All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
• Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
• No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
• Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
• (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
• (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.
• No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.



Article 13.
• (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
• (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
• (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
• (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
• (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
• (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
• (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
• (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
• (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.
• (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
• (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
• Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
• Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
• (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
• (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
• (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
• (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
• (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
• Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.
• (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
• (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
• (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
• (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.


Article 24.
• Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
• (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
• (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
• (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
• (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
• (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
• (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
• (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
• Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
• (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
• (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
• (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.
• Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.






TRIPURA HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION ( THRO)
Lake road, Krishna Nagar , Agartala. Phone: 0381 232 8920, 230 5771.
e-mail: thro_agt@yahoo.co.in

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Haiti cholera death toll tops 900

Source : BBC

Haiti cholera death toll tops 900
Patients with cholera symptoms, MSF hospital, Port-au-Prince (12 November 2010) More than 14,000 people have been hospitalised since the outbreak

The number of people in Haiti who have died from cholera has reached 917, the country's health ministry says.

The disease is present in six out of 10 provinces and 14,642 people have been hospitalised since the outbreak of the waterborne disease began last month.

Aid agencies are battling to contain cholera in the capital Port-au-Prince, amid fears it will spread through camps housing 1.1m earthquake survivors.

The UN is appealing for $164m (£101m) to treat the disease in the next year.

The death toll has risen by 121 since Friday.


Elections due

The worst affected area remains the central province of Artibonite, where 595 people have died, said an update on the health ministry's website.

In Port-au-Prince - which was badly damaged by the earthquake in January - 27 deaths have been recorded.

Earlier this month, Hurricane Tomas brought heavy rains, which aid agencies say contributed to the spread of the disease, as rivers burst their banks.

Up to 200,000 Haitians could contract cholera, the United Nations says.

Cholera itself causes diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to severe dehydration. It can kill quickly but is treated easily through rehydration and antibiotics.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are due to take place in two weeks' time, on 28 November.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Cholera

  • Intestinal infection caused by bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food
  • Source of contamination usually faeces of infected people
  • Causes diarrhoea, vomiting, severe dehydration; can kill quickly
  • Easily treated with antibiotics

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pakistani Christian woman appeals over death sentence




Pakistani Christians in church Rights groups say the blasphemy law is often exploited by Islamist extremists or people harbouring personal grudges.

Pakistani Christian woman appeals over death sentence


Relatives of a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad say they will appeal against her conviction.

Asia Bibi is believed to be the first woman sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy law.

Her husband told the BBC her conviction was based on "false accusations".

Although no-one has ever been executed under the law, about 10 accused have been murdered before the completion of their trials.

The 45-year-old mother was sentenced to death on Monday by a court in the town of Nankana, around 75km (45 miles) from the city of Lahore in Punjab province.
Altercation over water

Her husband, Ashiq Masih, who is a field labourer, said: "We have never ever insulted the Prophet Muhammad or Islamic scripture, and we will contest the charges in the higher courts."

He said his wife was accused of blasphemy after getting into an argument last year with a group of women when she was sent by the wife of a village chief to fetch water.

Mr Masih said the other women challenged his wife and said it was sacrilegious to drink water collected by a non-Muslim.

"My wife took offence, saying, 'Are we not humans?' This led to an altercation," he said

Mr Masih added: "The actual complaint was lodged five days later, when local clerics raised the issue with the police."

Asia Bibi was arrested and charged with insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Reports say the trial judge ruled out the possibility that she was falsely accused and said there were no mitigating circumstances.

Human rights activists want the blasphemy law repealed as they say it is often exploited by Islamist extremists or those harbouring personal grudges.


Read More:
Bishop of Bradford David James examines recent violence culminating in the murder of six members of one family, burned to death in their home.

Pakistan city tense after 'blaspheming' Christians shot


The brothers had been accused of writing a pamphlet critical of the Prophet Muhammad
Police reinforcements have been called in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad a day after two Christians charged with blasphemy were shot dead outside court.

Christians 'are living in fear'

Pakistan is a hopeless country for civilised citizen The history of Pakistan is a document of human bloodshed in riot and terror attact. Civilised Nations should intervene in for better life of common people.

Friday, October 29, 2010

In India, greed creeps into microlending, critics say

Read in this blog relating story, click


In India, greed creeps into microlending, critics say

Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, October 29, 2010
NEW DELHI - The microcredit revolution has been celebrated for helping poor women in developing countries start small businesses. By lending them money for purchases such as a buffalo or sewing machine, the women were able to help lift their families out of poverty.

But critics say the microcredit model has been perverted by commercial greed in India, with reports of abusive collection methods and sky-high interest rates.

"What began as a simple, innovative model of providing credit for the poor women who were excluded from mainstream banks underwent a paradigm shift in India," said R. Subramaniam, principal secretary for rural development in Andhra Pradesh. "Many of these microfinance lenders morphed into for-profit companies six years ago."

In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, which the has the highest number of micro-lending businesses in India, at least 25 defaulters have committed suicide in the past two months, according to the government. At least 31 other suicides are under investigation.

Founded in rural Bangladesh, the Nobel-prize winning microcredit revolution called Grameen Bank became a global phenomenon as a system very small loans to poor people . The industry has boomed in India, growing at 70 percent annually in the past five years.

Critics say that rapid growth has resulted in abuses.

"Each loan agent had a target to fulfill and was knocking on people's door with easy credit without due diligence. That is how the rot set in. It's not unlike the subprime crisis in America," Subramaniam said.

Vijaya Kasipati, who lives in the village of Lachepet in Andhra Pradesh, said she had defaulted on five loans totaling about $ 2,000 from different micro-credit institutions. Loan recovery agents barged into her home last week, she said, with dozens of men shouting insults.

Two hours after the men left, she said, her husband, Jangam Kasipati, a temple priest, suffered a massive heart and died.

"The shock was too much for him. The agents were rude and very insulting. The whole village heard them," Kasipati, 46, said by telephone the village of Lachepet. "I just could not repay, I tried hard. The agents harassed me every week."

India's government is introducing a national law to scrutinize the institutions.

Earlier this month, the Andhra Pradesh government introduced an interim law calling for more disclosures, a ban on coercive loan recovery measures and better controls on multiple loans to one person. The law also mandates displaying interest rates prominently on signboards and setting up of district-level courts to hear complaints.

The microfinance industry has challenged the curbs in the state high court. Advocates say that about 80 percent of the sector is already regulated by India's central Reserve Bank of India and blame informal fly-by-night operators for the abuses.

"The way the rural economy is structured, moneylenders are an integral part of it. The moneylenders do feel threatened by the inroads made by the formal sector micro-finance institutions," said Alok Prasad, chief executive of the Microfinance Institutions Network, the industry association.

Some of the advocates say the new curbs could trigger a meltdown of the industry, with loans worth $6.6 billion and more than 30 million borrowers. "Everybody loses - the banks, the micro-finance institutions and the clients. Where will people go for their credit needs if the tap is suddenly turned off? Stop pushing them back into the arms of the village moneylenders who have been exploiting people for centuries."

But complaints about aggressive tactics abound.

Official say that harassment by agents included beating up defaulters, humiliating them by making them stand in the sun all day and hurling abuses at them outside their doors.

"You need to be very very careful when you are working with villagers. If you show up at their door with easy loans, they accept. They think, 'Money has come to my doorstep, why send it away?' So the same person is given more than one loan by several agents without checking their credit history and capacity to repay," Subramaniam said.

The loan size ranges from about $250 to $500. The borrowers have to pay the interest every week, a dramatic change from the earlier Grameen Bank model of monthly payments. Prasad said that the interest ranges between 24 to 36 percent. But an official said that some charge interest of 50 to 60 percent as well.

Critics said some of the small loans are being used to pay for weddings, pilgrimages and even cellphones.

"Where is the question of a small business? A woman has to immediately start weekly repayments," said Jamuna Paruchuri, project manager for gender at the government's Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty. "The woman is caught in a debt trap. She takes a second loan to repay the first."

In the village of Gangapur, B. Satyamma, 48, said she has struggled to repay a $250 loan she took out for a family medical emergency. She walks 5 miles a day to pluck cotton buds in distant fields because the wages are higher there.

"I have to do this to keep up with my weekly repayments of $6," she said.

Paruchuri said some loan agents create fraudulent accounts.

Savitri Edulu, 40, rolls beedis, traditional cigarettes, for a living in Lachapet village. A few months ago, an agent asked her to sign papers and offered her $25 as commission.

"It was quick money, and all I had to do was sign," she said. "Little did I know that the agent borrowed loans worth $ 2,500 from five different lenders in my name. Now different men are banging on my door every week, and the agent has absconded."

Courtesy : The Washington Post

You can read also a relating news published in The Times of India click !


MFI agents 'forcing' debtors to commit suicide: Study
Jinka Nagaraju, TNN, Oct 20, 2010,

HYDERABAD: In a shocking and disturbing revelation about the methods of the micro finance institutions (MFIs) in disbursing and recovering loans from the rural people of the state, a government study has found that some MFI agents themselves are encouraging the debtors to commit suicide so that their loans are repaid. This happens because the borrowers are covered by insurance.

Till now, there have been at least 45 suicides reported in the state in the last one-and-a-half months allegedly due to the coercive practices employed by the MFIs in recovering the loans. "MFI agents are provoking defaulters to commit suicide as all the borrowers are covered by insurance and if the defaulting member dies, the MFI will get the repayment from the insurance company," said the study that was conducted last week in various villages of the district by Sujata Sharma, project director of District Rural Development Authority (DRDA) of Warangal.

According to sources, the MFIs draw up an insurance cover for the borrower at the time of loan disbursement. In the eventuality of suicide, they recover the amount under the Loan Protection Fund (LPF) by which 10 per cent of the loan amount is deposited with the RBI which repays the remaining loan amount due from the defaulter. In fact, the study demolishes the theory that the MFIs are improving rural credit and, in fact, conclusively proves that the loans were taken only because of the presence of the MFIs.

In most cases, "there was an element of wasteful expenditure by the poor due to the availability of the easy loan from the MFIs....The presence of easy loan at the doorstep has certainly played a stimulatory role," the study said.

The six major reasons for which the loans were taken from the MFIs were for expenditure on marriages, death ceremonies and certain other rituals, medical expenses for those ailments not covered by Arogyasri, repayment of old dues, children's education, income generating activities including agriculture and male members getting habituated to liquor and not contributing to the family's income.

Explaining the methods adopted by the MFIs to trap the rural folk by doling out loans and, Budithi Rajasekhar, CEO of Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty ( SERP), the monitoring body of Self Help Groups (SHGs), said: "A major modus operandi is to lure a greedy SHG group member by bribing her with money and gifts to introduce the MFI agents to other members. For example, in Dubbaka mandal of Medak district, all the MFIs formed a syndicate to coerce the members to take loans."

Click 2


The ugly underbelly of Microfinance
Roli Srivastava, Swati Bharadwaj-Chand & Partha Sinha, TNN, Oct 18, 2010,
SKS Microfinance, India's largest microfinance player, arrived with a bang with its hugely successful IPO in August. However, the recent sacking of its MD and CEO Suresh Gurumani has opened up a pandora's box that is now threatening to expose the ugly underbelly of the sector which, many allege, is teeming with players who are no better than moneylenders but have so far been able to operate under the pious garb of poverty eradicators.

TOI spoke to a cross-section of people associated with the sector and found that most are of the opinion that far from pursuing their socalled vision of eradicating poverty and being poor-friendly , private MFIs are actually in it just for profiteering as they are lending to the poor at interest rates as steep as those charged by moneylenders, or 'Pathaani Vyaaj' , a sobriquet derived from the ruthless moneylenders of Afghan origin who operated during the early 20th century.

Those familiar with the functioning of MFIs point out that the lending model of for-profit MFIs is not exactly pro-poor . While offering a loan, they often quote a "10% flat" rate of interest, which, on the face of it, appears like a good deal. However, there is a catch. This 'flat' rate of interest means that it will not be calculated on reducing balance. It implies that even after the borrower has paid a few installments, the interest would still be calculated on the initial sum borrowed, and not on the balance loan amount. The result is a (hidden) final rate of interest of 24-30 %, or even higher for the poor who can barely afford a square meal a day. "Microfinance, as practised by MFIs is unethical to the extent that it evades the truth in lending," said R Balakrishnan, a financial market veteran turned independent adviser . The high rate of interest is also leading to defaults and fraud. Recently , there has been a spurt in suicides in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, allegedly due to harassment by MFI agents who started resorting to strong-arm tactics to recover loans as chances of default rise. M Subba Rao, of NGO Masses, who trained under Grameen Bank founder and Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh, describes the cases of alleged harassment by MFIs as the result of 'irresponsible lending' . "There is high pressure on the staff (of private MFIs) to lend. They have targets to meet and they dump money (on people)," said Rao.

Consider this: The loan outstanding , according to the latest estimate by Microfinance Institutions Network (MFIN), the organization of 40 MFIs, is about Rs 30,000 crore with about 3 crore poor banking on MFIs for their financial needs. While the four southern states of AP, Tamil Nadu , Karnataka and Kerala account for a chunk of this borrowing, West Bengal and Orissa too have rural poor relying on MFIs. Besides, the sector is also on an uptick in UP and Haryana.

SKS Microfinance founder and chairman, Vikram Akula, is at great pains to ensure that everything is above board in the company. And more so due to the bad publicity the company got after its board sacked Gurumani. "We believe there is a right way to do microfinance and we have been practising it over the past 13 years with not a single case of unethical practice against us." The company, Akula said, clearly communicates to the borrowers that though the loan was at a flat rate of 12.5%, it effectively works out to over 26% because there is an "extraordinarily high cost of doing microfinance" . Since most of its lenders don't understand rate of interest, SKS' agents communicate to its borrower how much they have to pay in terms of rupees per week.

Akula, whose company is the largest MFI in the country with over 73 lakh customers, also denies the possibility of its staff using strongarm tactics or misleading borrowers . Instead, he blames the bad name that the sector is getting to new MFIs jumping into the fray sensing a lucrative business.

Of course, eradicating poverty through the MFI route, for some, is a lucrative business. The IPO document by SKS disclosed that Gurumani was drawing an annual salary of Rs 1.5 crore, an equal amount or more as performance bonus, and also a one-time bonus of Rs 1 crore. Akula is entitled to up to 1% of SKS's net profit, in addition to ESOPs.

Not surprisingly the 'success' of some of the MFIs and the mega-listing of SKS recently have stunned even seasoned bankers. When asked about the success of the MFI business in India, during a recent interview with TOI, SBI chairman O P Bhatt said even he was surprised by their numbers. He wanted to go deeper into their finances and business model to understand how MFIs, which borrow from banks including SBI, can make profits which these very banks can't make. After all, like mobile tariff plans, no financial product is protected by patents and IPRs and the uniqueness of any new and lucrative one cannot last for more than 24 hours.

The problem seems to be with the business model, and not the approach . In India, there are three kinds of MFIs: The government-supported self-help groups, non-profit NGOs and the private for-profit firms. While private MFIs say that the smaller entities have earned the sector a bad name, social workers and industry veterans at the grassroots say that bigger players with bigger targets have led to such incidents. In many instances, multiple MFIs lend to the same clients, resulting in repayment problems and eventually to defaults.

'MFIs have lost ethical values'

ANABARD-funded study says Vijay Mahajan's Basix Microfinance — with funding from Ford Foundation , Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Sri Ratan Tata Trust — became the first MFI with a 'forprofit model' not only in AP but also India.

Industry observers point to a trend: Register a company under Section 25 of Companies Act, 1956 as a not-forprofit entity, use grants — local as well as foreign — and do social lending to build a book, buy an NBFC (preferably a dormant one), do a reverse merger and become a for-profit MFI. Says the head of a financial services company : "The problem starts when shareholders of forprofit companies put pressure for return."

source : The Times of India

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indonesia tsunami kills


Indonesia tsunami kills

By JOHN NEDI
The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Source : The Washington Post

PADANG, Indonesia -- Navy ships packed with medicine and food and rescuers in helicopters headed Tuesday to remote Indonesian islands that were pounded by a 10-foot (3-meter) tsunami, sweeping away villages and killing at least 113 people

Rough seas and bad weather have hampered relief operations, leaving villagers to fend for themselves for nearly two days. With not enough people to dig graves, corpses littered beaches and roads, according to district chief, Edison Salelo Baja. Fisherman were scouring waters in search of survivors.

The fault line that ruptured Monday on Sumatra island's coast also caused the 2004 quake and monster Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Disaster officials have been unable so far to reach many of the villages on the hardest hit Mentawai islands - a popular surfer's destination that is usually reachable only by a 12-hour boat ride. But they were preparing for the worst Wednesday.

"We have 200 body bags on the way, just in case," said Mujiharto, who heads the Health Ministry's crisis center, putting the death toll so far at 113 with hundreds more still missing.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity due to its location on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire - a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

The country's most volatile volcano, Mount Merapi, 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the east, started to erupt at dusk Tuesday as scientists warned that pressure building beneath its lava dome could trigger one of the most powerful blasts in years.

The 7.7-magnitude quake that struck late Monday just 13 miles (20 kilometers) beneath the ocean floor was followed by at least 14 aftershocks, the largest measuring 6.2, and many panicked residents have been too afraid to return home.

That could account in part for the more than 500 people still missing, said Hendri Dori Satoko, a local parliamentarian who was overseeing a fact-finding missing. "We're trying to stay hopeful," he said.

The first cargo plane loaded down with 16 tons of tents, medicine, food and clothes was expected to arrive by Wednesday afternoon, said Nelis Zuliastri, a spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

Two helicopters also were on the way, as was a Navy ship and a boat carrying dozens of police and military personnel, said Ade Edward, another disaster official.

Officials say hundreds of wooden and bamboo homes were washed away on the island of Pagai, with water flooding crops and roads up to 600 yards (meters) inland. In Muntei Baru, a village on Silabu island, 80 percent of the houses were badly damaged.

Those and other islets hit were part of the Mentawai island chain, 175 miles (280 kilometers) from Sumatra.

Eight Australian survivors, and American and a New Zealander arrived in the Sumatran city of Padang on Wednesday, recounting their harrowing encounter with the tsunami.

They said they were on the back deck of their anchored boat, the 'MV Midas,' when the wall of water smashed them into a neighbouring vessel, triggering a fire that quickly ripped through their cabin.

"They hit us directly in the side of the boat, piercing a fuel tank," said Daniel North, the American crew member. "Almost immediately, the captain gave the order to abandon ship and everyone got off the boat."

They clung to surfboards, fenders - anything that floated - as they washed in the wetlands and then climbed the highest trees they could find and waited for more than 90 minutes until they felt safe.

Ade Edward, a disaster management agency official, said crews from a tourist boat were found safe after more than 24 hours missing in the Indian Ocean, including up to nine foreigners.

---

Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Irwan Firdaus contributed to this report.




Source : The Hindu

MENTAWAI ISLANDS (Indonesia): Helicopters with emergency supplies finally landed on Wednesday on the remote Indonesian islands slammed by a tsunami that killed at least 272 people, while elsewhere in the archipelago the toll from a volcanic eruption rose to 30, including the mountain's spiritual caretaker.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cut short a state visit to Vietnam to rush home to deal with the dual disasters that struck Indonesia within 24 hours, straining the country's ability to respond.

The first aerial surveys of the region hit by the three-metre tsunami revealed huge swaths of land underwater and the crumbled rubble of homes torn apart by the wave.

Two days after an undersea earthquake spawned the killer wave, the casualty count was still rising as rescuers landed for the first time on the Mentawai island chain, which was closest to the epicenter and the worst hit. Bad weather had kept them away previously.

About 1,300 km to the east in central Java, disaster officials were scouring the slopes of Indonesia's most volatile volcano for survivors after it was rocked by an eruption that killed at least 30 people, including an old man who refused to abandon his ceremonial post as caretaker of the mountain's spirits.

Mount Merapi erupted at dusk on Tuesday, sending up searing ash clouds and killing more than two dozen people.

Authorities warned the thousands who fled Merapi's wrath not to return during Wednesday's lull in volcanic activity.

Among the dead was Maridjan, an 83-year-old man who had been entrusted by a highly respected late king to watch over the volcano's spirits. Maridjan had for years led ceremonies in which rice and flowers were thrown into the crater to appease the mountain. There were reports that the old man was found kneeling face-down on the floor, a typical Islamic prayer position. — AP

The Times of India
The tsunami, which was triggered by a 7.5 magnitude quake, flattened several villages and a surf resort. "The number of dead is now 282 and 411 are missing," West Sumatra provincial disaster management official Ade Edward said over phone.

He said aid such as food, blankets and tents had begun filtering into the affected areas but that clean water was scarce and that the risk of disease was growing.

"We're still looking for those missing. They could be in the hills, buried by rubble or could have been swept out to sea," Edward said.

The bodies were found in districts of South Pagai, North Pagai, Sikakap and South Sipora, he said.

"Fifteen people sustained serious injuries such as broken limbs," he said.



Images reveal Indonesian tsunami destruction

BBC News

Aerial view of North Pagai island, government hand-out picture Government helicopters were able to survey the damage on Wednesday

Flattened villages are plainly visible on the images, taken from government helicopters circling the islands.

Rescuers, who have finally reached the area, say 13 villages were washed away by the 3m (10ft) wave, and 11 more settlements have not yet been reached.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is due to visit the region later.

He cut short a trip to Vietnam to oversee the rescue effort.

A 7.7-magnitude earthquake triggered the tsunami in western Sumatra two days ago.

The first cargo plane loaded with tents, medicine, food and clothes landed on the islands on Wednesday, but rescue teams believe they have yet to reach the worst-affected areas.

Local disaster official Ade Edward said 411 people were still missing.

Bad weather has delayed the rescue effort, with boats carrying aid struggling to make the trip from Padang on Sumatra in choppy seas.

Indonesia's 32 hours of disaster

  • 25 Oct, 0600 local time: Highest alert issued for Mt Merapi eruption; villagers advised to leave.
  • 25 Oct, 2142: 7.7 magnitude quake near Mentawai Islands; tsunami watch issued.
  • 26 Oct, 1300: First reports of people missing after tsunami
  • 26 Oct, 1402: Mt Merapi erupts.

The first images emerging from the islands, taken on mobile phones, showed bodies being collected from empty clearings where homes and buildings once stood.

District chief Edison Salelo Baja said corpses were strewn along beaches and roads.

Locals were given no indication of the coming wave because an early-warning system put in place after the devastating 2004 tsunami has stopped working.

Fauzi, the head of Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysic Agency, told the Associated Press that the system began to malfunction last year, and was completely inoperative by last month.


"We do not have the expertise to monitor the buoys to function as intended," he said.

However, even a functioning warning system may have been too late for people in the Mentawai Islands.

The vast Indonesian archipelago sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, one of the world's most active areas for earthquakes and volcanoes.

More than 1,000 people were killed by an earthquake off Sumatra in September 2009.

In December 2004, a 9.1-magnitude quake off the coast of Aceh triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed a quarter of a million people in 13 countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.


Monday, October 25, 2010

cholera-hit Haiti


Pic. credit :BBC

Haiti cholera outbreak causes not clear, experts say

Vibrio Cholerae, bacterium that causes Cholera in humans
Until the current outbreak, cholera had not been documented in Haiti since 1960

The cholera outbreak in central Haiti that so far has killed more than 250 people and infected more than 3,000 is the worst health challenge the country faces since the earthquake in January.

There had been no documented outbreak of the disease in Haiti since 1960.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said after the earthquake that while cholera testing should be carried out, the disease was "extremely unlikely to occur".

So why has the epidemic struck now?

It is not clear if the cause of the outbreak will ever be identified, but health experts agree that for cholera to occur, bad sanitation and hygiene have to coincide with people carrying the Vibrio Cholerae bacterium.

Sanitary conditions were poor in many parts of Haiti even before the earthquake, and Dr Brigitte Vasset from the international humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Paris is reluctant to link the outbreak directly with the quake.

"Central Haiti - where most people have been infected - was not the region most affected by the earthquake," she says.

While many displaced people might have sought refuge in the Artibonite region after the disaster, cholera bacteria could have been present in the Artibonite river or a stagnant water source even before the earthquake, Dr Vasset says.

She also points out that while no cases of cholera have been reported from rural areas, this does not mean that it has been completely absent.

Start Quote

As soon as people have been infected and excrete the bacteria, the epidemic spreads very quickly"”

End Quote Adam Kamradt-Scott London School for Hygiene

"In many African countries there are sporadic cases during the year, then the weather changes or other conditions change, and all of a sudden there is an outbreak," Dr Vasset says, adding that the disease is difficult to predict.

"I have worked in refugee camps where we expected a cholera outbreak - and it never came," she says.

Sarah Morgan, Senior Health Programme Adviser at aid agency World Vision, agrees that it is possible low-level cholera was present in Haiti all along.

"Surveillance data on cholera in Haiti are not available," she says. However, watery diarrhoea has been common in the country, causing 5% to 16% of the deaths among Haitian children, according to CDC data.

With diarrhoea so prevalent and no stringent monitoring by health authorities and 80% of those with symptoms showing only moderate signs of infection, sporadic cases of cholera might not have registered.

"While there might have been no significant outbreak of cholera, it is possible that there was a background level of the disease", Ms Morgan says.

That cholera has now been picked up so quickly after the outbreak in the Artibonite region is a great success for Haiti's health authorities and international organisations working the country, she adds.

On the rise

Cholera is widespread and on the rise, with three to five million cases worldwide, the World Health Organisation says.

More than 100,000 people die from the disease every year, with the majority of cases in Sub-Saharan Africa. Epidemics of Vibrio Cholerae are caused by one of two strains: 01, which has been identified as the cause of the current epidemic in Haiti, and the South-East Asian strain 0139.

It is difficult to get a complete picture of the global spread of the disease, because some countries are reluctant to report cholera for fear of travel sanctions, says Adam Kamradt-Scott from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Mr Kamradt-Scott points out that around 75% of people infected with Vibrio Cholerae do not develop symptoms. But they excrete the bacterium with their faeces for up to 14 days - a potential source of infection for others.

With more people and aid coming to Haiti since the earthquake in January, there is a possibility that the bacterium was brought to the country from the outside, Mr Kamradt-Scott says.

"The bacteria can be resident in water for a quite a while," Mr Kamradt-Scott explains and points to a cholera outbreak in Peru in 1991.

There was speculation that that epidemic, which quickly spread across Latin America, came from bilge water and algae dumped by an Asian cargo ship, contaminating local shellfish.

In Haiti, the disease has more likely been spread because people used the Artibonite river for washing and drinking.

"As soon as people have been infected and excrete the bacteria, the epidemic spreads very quickly," Mr Kamradt-Scott says.

"It is then important to break the cycle of the disease", he adds.

Because Vibrio Cholerae produces toxins that lead to watery diarrhoea, patients need to be rehydrated by with liquids containing sugar and salt or with intravenous fluids.

Those infected need to receive treatment immediately, Mr Kamradt-Scott says. If not treated, the death-rate of cholera can rise up to 50%.

But the potentially deadly cholera cycle can only be broken when people also stay away from the contaminated water source until the bacteria have cleared, he adds.


Cholera sufferers receive treatment at St Nicholas' hospital, St Marc, Haiti (24 Oct 2010)
The hospital courtyard in St Marc is full of families caring for their sick relatives

Learning to survive in cholera-hit Haiti

The Artibonite river in Haiti has turned deadly. Once a source of water for the villagers that live along its banks, now it is thought to be the source of the cholera epidemic.

For those who used to bathe, play and do laundry in the river - or drink from it - life has changed drastically.

Aid agencies deliver bottled water daily and leaflets are being given out to the villagers.

"This is very good information," one man tells me, as he reads about how handwashing is important in combating the spread of the disease.

"If we had learned this before, lives could have been saved," he observes.

A mother and daughter who live in a small shed by the river tell me that they lost relatives to the cholera.

"We would never drink that water now," they tell me, looking askance at the river flowing by.

But how do you carry out your daily lives now, I ask.

"We boil the water," they say.

The public information campaign is well underway. Outside St Nicholas' hospital in St Marc, a song blares out from the sound system, encouraging people to use clean water and clean toilets.

There is plenty of bottled water, courtesy of the aid agencies, but clean toilets are another matter.

Human cost

At the hospital itself, there are urns of water on the way in, so people can wash their hands.

Health worker washing her hands outside St Nicholas hospital, St Marc, Haiti (24 Oct 2010)
People are urged to wash their hands thoroughly as they visit the hospital

A sponge mat on the floor soaked with chlorine is meant to help disinfect the people who might be carrying cholera.

But so many people trample over it, the sponge is turning muddy.

The hospital director tells me he hopes Haitians will now understand just how important basic cleanliness is.

In the crowded hospital courtyard, families tend their sick relatives anxiously, watching the intravenous drips.

The father of eight-year-old Ritchee Camulus is so grateful to the doctors here.

He thought he might lose his son, who had severe dehydration. But now, Ritchee is recovering.

How are you, I ask. Ritchee smiles broadly and asks after me in return.

Cholera can kill within hours. At that back of the hospital I am shown the morgue.

A brand new child's coffin is a poignant reminder of how the most vulnerable are the worst affected by the disease.

I meet Marken in the morgue, searching for the body of his nephew Joseph, who died two days ago.

Haitian authorities hope the epidemic may now be stabilising, but the human cost continues to mount, in a country which has already seen so much suffering.

Map


Women cover their mouths as their children are treated in hospital in Grande-Saline, Haiti, 23 October 2010

A cholera outbreak in Haiti has killed more than 200 people in northern and central Haiti. The BBC's Laura Trevelyan has visited the Saint Nicholas hospital in Saint-Marc, a port town in Artibonite department:

Every corner of this open air courtyard is filled with patients.

A woman weeps, her two children just confirmed as having cholera.

A father cradles his two-year-old, as the mother tries to get their unresponsive son to drink the rehydrating fluid which will help keep him alive.

An elderly woman lies motionless on a camp bed, covered with a blanket. She looks emaciated.

Everywhere I look, I see eyes which have sunk back into their sockets - the sign of advanced dehydration from diarrhoea.

Crowded households

A few hours on an intravenous drip can cure people in this state - or it may not be enough.

A young boy is sleeping, his breathing shallow - his mother watches intently.

Dr Koji Nakashima from Partners in Health, a group working with the Haitian health authorities throughout the country, has spent all day administering intravenous drips to patients.

"The terrifying thing about this disease is how quickly it can kill," he says.

"Patients come in and they're unresponsive. They don't have the resources to get here quickly - they come by donkey, on foot. It is a very challenging environment."

His colleague Dr Louise Ivers has been helping to manage admissions to the hospital.

People are coming in earlier on in the stages of cholera, she says, so there seem to be slightly fewer severe cases than there were. But the people keep coming.

Child with cholera is comforted by a woman in hospital in Grand-Saline, Haiti, 23 October 2010 The doctors say cholera can kill very quickly if patients are is not treated properly

Although the Artibonite river has not been officially confirmed as the source of the outbreak, she says that when the first patients started arriving on Tuesday, staff noticed a pattern: all those infected had used the Artibonite river, whether for play or washing.

This central region of Haiti was not directly affected by the earthquake in January which killed about 300,000 people. But many who lost their homes came here to live.

Dr Ivers says that meant already-crowded households have been taking on even more people, leading to stressful conditions.

The earthquake did not cause the cholera epidemic - but it certainly contributed to the conditions which have allowed it to spread.

The question now is how to contain the disease.

I have brought hand sanitiser and baby wipes - thinking that might help. The doctors explain that as the disease is transmitted by faeces, made watery by the diarrhoea, I must try to ensure that my boots are clean.

Haiti has not seen a cholera outbreak in 100 years, and that is partly why this one is spreading so fast: there is no immunity.

The country has been disproportionately affected by political clashes, natural disasters from tropical storms to earthquakes - and now this.

All eyes now are on the migration of the disease, as it moves towards the capital Port-au-Prince.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~from Washington Post~~~~~~~~~~~

Cholera outbreak threatens Haiti's capital


Sunday, October 24, 2010;

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- A cholera outbreak that already has left 250 people dead and more than 3,000 sickened is at the doorstep of an enormous potential breeding ground: the squalid camps in Port-au-Prince where 1.3 million earthquake survivors live. Health authorities and aid workers are scrambling to keep the tragedies from merging and the deaths from multiplying.

Five cholera patients have been reported in Haiti's capital, heightening worries that the disease could reach the sprawling tent slums where abysmal hygiene, poor sanitation and widespread poverty could rapidly spread it. But government officials said Sunday that all five apparently got cholera outside Port-au-Prince, and they voiced hope that the deadly bacterial disease could be confined to the rural areas where the outbreak originated last week.

"It's not difficult to prevent the spread to Port-au-Prince. We can prevent it," said Health Ministry director Gabriel Timothee. He said tightly limiting movement of patients and careful disposal of bodies can stave off a major medical disaster.

If efforts to keep cholera out of the camps fail, "the worst case would be that we have hundreds of thousands of people getting sick at the same time," said Claude Surena, president of the Haiti Medical Association.

Cholera can cause vomiting and diarrhea so severe that it can kill from dehydration in hours.

Doctors Without Borders issued a statement saying that some Port-au-Prince residents were suffering from watery diarrhea and were being treated at facilities in the capital. Cholera infection among the patients had not been confirmed, however, and aid workers stressed that diarrhea has not been uncommon in Port-au-Prince since the earthquake.

"Medical teams have treated many people with watery diarrhea over the last several months," Doctors Without Borders said.

Aid workers in the impoverished nation say the risk is magnified by the extreme poverty faced by people displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake, which killed as many as 300,000 Haitians and destroyed much of the capital. Haitians living in the camps risk disease by failing to wash their hands, or scooping up standing water and then proceeding to wash fruits and vegetables.

"There are limited ways you can wash your hands and keep your hands washed with water in slums like we have here," said Michel Thieren, an official with the Pan-American Health Organization in Haiti. "The conditions for transmission are much higher."

Aid workers are coaching thousands of impoverished families how best to avoid cholera. Various aid groups are providing soap and water purification tablets and educating people in Port-au-Prince's camps about the importance of hand-washing.

Aid groups also began training more staff about cholera and where to direct people with symptoms. The disease had not been seen in Haiti for decades, and many people don't know about it.

Members of one grass-roots Haitian organization traveled around Port-au-Prince's camps booming warnings about cholera from speakers in the bed of a pickup.

"In a way, it couldn't have happened at a better moment than now because everyone is on the field - lots of [nongovernmental organizations], lots of money. We haven't had any hurricanes so far this fall but people are here, and people are prepared," said Marc Paquette, Haiti director for the Canadian branch of Medecins du Monde.

- Associated Press



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