Mozambique’s cyclone-hit city
By NQOBILE NTSHANGASE
Wednesday, March 27
BEIRA, Mozambique (AP) — The first cases of cholera have been confirmed in the cyclone-ravaged city of Beira, Mozambican authorities announced on Wednesday, raising the stakes in an already desperate fight to help hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in increasingly squalid conditions.
The five cholera cases were confirmed in Munhava, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the hard-hit port city , the national director of medical assistance, Ussene Isse, told reporters. The city of some 500,000 people is still struggling to provide clean water and sanitation after Cyclone Idai roared in on March 14.
“You know, cholera is an epidemic situation. When you have one case, you expect to have more cases in the community,” Isse said.
Cholera is a major concern for cyclone survivors now living in crowded camps, schools, churches and any land exposed by the still-draining flood waters. The disease is spread by contaminated food and water, causes acute diarrhea and can kill within hours if not treated with oral rehydration solution or intravenous fluids in severe cases.
The World Health Organization has warned of a “second disaster” if waterborne diseases like cholera spread in the devastated region. On Tuesday it said 900,000 oral cholera vaccines were expected to arrive later this week.
The cyclone has killed more than 460 people in Mozambique and left 1.8 million people in need of urgent help. President Filipe Nyusi last week estimated that 1,000 people had been killed. The toll could be higher as floodwaters drain away and reveal more bodies, some emergency responders have said. The actual number of dead may never be known.
Health workers were opening clinics across Beira, the center of relief operations for the region.
Some people in the city have resorted to drinking stagnant water by the side of the road, increasing the chances of diarrhea, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said. Other people are drinking from contaminated wells.
The aid group said it has seen hundreds of cases of acute watery diarrhea in the past few days.
“The scale of extreme damage will likely lead to a dramatic increase of waterborne diseases, skin infections, respiratory tract infections and malaria in the coming days and weeks,” said Gert Verdonck, the group’s emergency coordinator in Beira.
Hurried efforts continued to restore running water to Beira. The United Nations children’s agency said parts of the city’s water supply system were working again, with “water running in 60 percent of the pipes.” The government also was operating water trucks.
Relief operations continued to explore ways to deliver aid to the city that remains largely reachable only by air and sea. More challenging was reaching rural communities, some of them still without contact with the outside world.
More humanitarian actors arrived as the United Nations urges the international community to fund a $282 million emergency appeal for the next three months.
The U.N. refugee agency announced that its first aid flight had landed in the capital, Maputo, with plans to immediately transport the tents, mosquito nets and other items to Beira.
Two other flights are planned for Zimbabwe and Malawi this week.
The death toll in Mozambique is now at least 468, with 259 dead in Zimbabwe and at least 56 dead in Malawi.
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Vatican says pope will visit 3 African nations in September
Wednesday, March 27
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis will visit the African countries of Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius in early September, the Vatican announced on Wednesday.
The Vatican said that during the Sept. 4-10 visit Francis will visit the capitals: Maputo in Mozambique, Antananarivo in Madagascar and Port Louis in Mauritius.
In a national address, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said his country invited Francis last year and that the pontiff accepted “in principle, as long as his health allowed.”
This will be the second papal visit to the southern African nation since John Paul II visited 30 years ago, helping the country on a path to peace and reconciliation, Nyusi said.
A civil war raged in Mozambique from 1977 to 1992.
Now the country is trying to recover from a devastating cyclone earlier this month that the president has said may have killed as many as 1,000 people. Authorities on Wednesday announced the first confirmed cases of cholera, complicating response efforts for nearly 2 million people that the United Nations says are in urgent need of aid.
“The pope’s visit to our country encourages us to proceed with determination to overcome our everyday problems,” Nyusi said. “We hope this visit acts as a moment of inspiration and encouragement in the Mozambicans’ struggle to … rebuild a prosperous, united and peaceful nation.”
The pope’s visit comes shortly before Mozambique holds general elections in October.
The Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries, according to the World Bank, with more than two-thirds of its 25 million people living in extreme poverty.
The tiny Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius is one of Africa’s richest countries based on per capita income, and it is seen as one of the continent’s most stable nations.
Associated Press writer Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal contributed.
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‘Second disaster’ warned in Mozambique as cholera a concern
By NQOBILE NTSHANGASE
Tuesday, March 26
BEIRA, Mozambique (AP) — Cyclone-ravaged Mozambique faces a “second disaster” from cholera and other diseases, the World Health Organization warned on Tuesday, while relief operations pressed into rural areas where an unknown number of people remain without aid more than 10 days after the storm.
Some 1.8 million people in Mozambique need urgent help after Cyclone Idai, the United Nations said in an emergency appeal for $282 million for the next three months.
The cyclone was “one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in the history of Africa,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York. He raised the specter of hunger, saying the storm inundated Mozambique’s breadbasket on the eve of harvest.
The death toll remained at least 761 in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and authorities have warned it is “very preliminary.” More bodies will be found as floodwaters drain away.
Emergency responders raced to contain deadly diseases such as cholera, which authorities have said will break out as more than a quarter-million displaced people shelter in camps with little or no clear water and sanitation. Many wells were contaminated by the floods.
People are living in tent camps, schools, churches, roads and other impromptu places on higher ground. Many have little but their clothes, squatting over cooking fires and picking their way around stretches of increasingly dirty water or simply walking through it, resigned.
The World Health Organization said it is expecting a “spike” in malaria cases in Mozambique. The disease-carrying mosquitoes breed in standing water.
WHO also said 900,000 oral cholera vaccines were expected to arrive later this week. Cholera is caused by eating contaminated food or drinking water and can kill within hours. Cases of diarrhea have been reported.
“We must not let these people suffer a second disaster through a serious disease outbreak or inability to access essential health services. They have suffered enough,” Dr. Djamila Cabral, the WHO Representative in Mozambique, told reporters in Geneva.
She said people in camps were living in “horrific conditions” and that about 55 health centers had been severely damaged.
Aid continued to arrive, including much-needed air support. The World Food Program received $280,000 from the European Union to support the deployment of a U.N. Humanitarian Air Service helicopter that will deliver assistance to the two worst-hit districts in Zimbabwe, Chimanimani and Chipinge.
The United States said it had donated nearly $3.4 million in emergency food assistance to the World Food Program, whose director was touring Beira on Tuesday.
A field hospital was being set up in Beira and another is arriving later this week, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said. A sanitation system to serve some 22,000 people has arrived and a water purification unit to serve some 25,000 people is expected to arrive on Wednesday, the organization said.
Bit by bit, the scale of the destruction became clearer. The cyclone reportedly destroyed all houses in the village of Metuchira, home to nearly 38,000 people, the U.N. humanitarian agency said.
Amid the relief efforts, grieving people in Mozambique struggled to bury the dead. “Efforts are underway to improve management of dead bodies, as mortuary facilities were either destroyed and/or lack enough facilities and capacity,” the U.N. humanitarian agency said.
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Cara Anna in Johannesburg contributed.
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Opinion: There’s No Federal Cure-All on Nutrition
By Richard Williams
Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and others recently suggested that the time has come for a new federal department devoted exclusively to nutrition. Although the nutritional problems they identify in America are serious and compelling, their proposal to add a shiny new federal department — what they envision as a “National Institute of Nutrition” — is not.
The authors cite a study that estimates that there were 318,656 deaths in 2012 from a “suboptimal intake of dietary factors … related to excess sodium intake, insufficient intake of nuts/seeds, high intake of processed meats, and low intake of seafood omega-3 fats.” Tellingly, these foods and nutrients have been controversial with respect to how they relate to disease.
For example, the FDA is still not entirely convinced about the benefits of omega-3 fats in seafood; nuts have gone from being high-fat heart killers to superfoods; and red meat’s relationship with colon cancer is so contested that the World Health Organization disagreed with its own International Agency for Research on Cancer about the effect.
Why, then, would we expect a new federal institute to give us “better answers” than the information that fills nutrition journals around the planet with multiple, and often conflicting, conclusions?
If anything, federal agencies are bastions of established viewpoints. They’re slow to change their collective minds about anything — the organizational equivalent to a gigantic ocean tanker, taking miles to make even slight turns. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer once described federal agencies as having “tunnel vision, an agency’s supreme confidence in the importance of its own mission to the point where it leaves common sense aside.”
Physician and author David Katz, also skeptical of a new nutrition agency, writes, “Science acquires information and understanding incrementally, additively and relentlessly — the very definition of progress.” Similarly, in speaking about the “growing consensus” of researchers who are re-thinking the dangers of dietary cholesterol, former Harvard Health executive editor Patrick Skerrett notes, “Science, including nutrition science, is a process of change. New findings emerge that nudge aside old thinking and prompt new recommendations.”
Will useful information emerge from a new federal institute? Perhaps. But so will organizational dysfunction, special interest influence and bureaucratic agendas that make it difficult to tell whether or not that information represents the best scientific consensus.
Investigative reporter Nina Teicholz documents in her book “The Big Fat Surprise” how scientific “consensus” on diets has been achieved by strong personalities who excluded skeptics from funding sources and publishing outlets, or accused them of being “industry funded spokespersons.” She also documents how the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture went along with this controversial consensus. Though her nutritional conclusions remain controversial, her description of the process seems accurate.
Similarly, a former editor of the British Journal of Nutrition, D.A.T. Southgate, chargedthat an article he wrote for his old publication was reviewed as “well argued” but rejected because it was not “nutritionally politically correct.”
Science has been taking it on the chin lately, thanks to discoveries that much of what is published is not replicable. It will recover, but remember that like any competitive market, science is messy, with thousands of journals attacking, challenging and confirming conclusions.
What we think we know changes. Another government organization, complete with federal money and pressure, massive lobbying, and bureaucrats with vested interests in specific viewpoints, is as likely to delay the discovery of truth as it is to enhance it.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Richard Williams is a senior affiliated scholar with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a former director for social sciences at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the Food and Drug Administration. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida New Book from John Dunn Is A Wake Up Call For Floridians
E – The Environmental Magazine March 25, 2019
America’s wettest state is running out of water. Florida―with its swamps, lakes, extensive coastlines, and legions of life-giving springs―faces a drinking water crisis. Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida is a wake-up call and a hard look at what the future holds for those who call Florida home.
Journalist and educator John Dunn untangles the many causes of the state’s freshwater problems. Drainage projects, construction, and urbanization, especially in the fragile wetlands of South Florida, have changed and shrunk natural water systems. Pollution, failing infrastructure, increasing outbreaks of toxic algae blooms, and pharmaceutical contamination are worsening water quality. Climate change, sea level rise, and groundwater pumping are spoiling freshwater resources with saltwater intrusion. Because of shortages, fights have broken out over rights to the Apalachicola River, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and other important watersheds.
Many scientists think Florida has already passed the tipping point, Dunn warns. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews and years of research, he affirms that soon there will not be enough water to meet demand if “business as usual” prevails. He investigates previous and current restoration efforts as well as proposed future solutions, including the “soft path for water” approach that uses green infrastructure to mimic natural hydrology.
As millions of new residents are expected to arrive in Florida in the coming decades, this book is a timely introduction to a problem that will escalate dramatically―and not just in Florida. Dunn cautions that freshwater scarcity is a worldwide trend that can only be tackled effectively with cooperation and single-minded focus by all stakeholders involved―local and federal government, private enterprise, and citizens. He challenges readers to rethink their relationship with water and adopt a new philosophy that compels them to protect the planet’s most precious resource.
There are still many ways to immerse yourself in unspoiled beauty in Florida, and there are many people working hard to preserve what’s left of this lush paradise.
Home of the Future: Almost Here Today? Green upgrades soon to be the new normal once California goes “zero net emissions” in 2020
Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss March 22, 2019
Dear EarthTalk: Given all the advances in residential household efficiency, can you paint a picture of what the home of the future will look like?
—Jennifer C., Valmeyer, IL
No doubt, homes in the future, whether single family dwellings or apartments in larger buildings, will be much greener than what we are all living in these days. For starters, the use of sustainable, locally sourced (and ideally recycled) materials will be the norm, not the exception, so as to avoid the unnecessary emissions and resource consumption required to make new stuff and ship it around the world.
This small rooftop wind turbine from Nertherlands-based start-up The Archimedes can generate 1,500 kilowatt-hours of energy each year, which would account for about 15% of the typical American household’s annual energy needs.
Homes of the future will be energy efficient. Part of this efficiency will come from better insulation, doors and windows to keep the heat/cold inside where you want it. The other part will come in the form of using renewable energy generated on-site, whether from rooftop photovoltaic solar panels, thin-film window treatments, solar shingles, micro wind turbines, kinetic energy harvesters, or other newfangled technologies. And all this self-sustaining energy will be stored in your own high-capacity batteries probably not so different from Tesla’s Powerwall array.
Homes of the future will also be smart. Your appliances, A/C, lighting, home security, motorized blinds, garage door openers and other systems will be connected to your network with controls available through apps over the Internet. And chances are, your future home will be smaller. The “tiny house” movement highlights how much homeowners can save on utility bills when space is limited. Efficiency can also be about use of space as much as about use of energy. While we won’t all live in tiny homes, downsizing will definitely continue to be “in.”
And what about outside your home? Don’t be surprised if your perfect lawn has been replaced by native plants attuned to the surrounding ecosystem. These hardy local plants won’t need chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides to thrive. Rainwater from your roof will be collected in cisterns, with the resulting “graywater” used to irrigate your landscaping. A green roof or vertical garden could top it all off.
While the picture painted above may seem far-fetched, it’s really not, given that you could build a home that met all of the above criteria today for not much more than a conventional home. That said, it might be greener still to retrofit your existing old-school home with eco-friendly upgrades than to tear it down and build a new one, given the emissions associated with manufacturing, materials transport and assembly on a new structure. While the new home will be more efficient, it could take decades to “pay back” the “carbon debt” accrued by building from scratch.
Of course, all buildings run their course eventually, so when it is time to tear-down, it’s good to know there are plenty of green options out there to replace the old homestead. And with California adopting new building codes that go into effect in 2020 calling on all new construction of single-family homes and low-rise apartments to meet zero net energy standards (whereby they generate as much power from on-site renewables as they consume from the grid), the future may be here sooner than we imagined.
CONTACTS: Tesla Powerwall, tesla.com/powerwall; “Tiny Homes Are Big On Energy Efficiency,” ase.org/blog/tiny-homes-are-big-energy-efficiency; “CA Building Code Takes Big Step Toward Net-Zero Energy,” nrdc.org/experts/pierre-delforge/ca-building-code-takes-big-step-toward-net-zero-energy.
EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss for the 501(c)3 nonprofit EarthTalk. To donate, visit www.earthtalk.org. Send questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.