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During the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, healthcare workers were contracting Ebola at an alarming rate. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that those fighting Ebola at the frontlines–in clinics and hospitals–were up to 32 times more likely to contract the disease than the rest of the population. Among the principal reasons why was the lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in healthcare facilities, which rendered healthcare workers unable to wash their hands and disinfect surfaces. At the time, UNICEF reported that the demand for running water in Sierra Leonean healthcare facilities outstripped supply, as safely treating patients with Ebola requires 140 liters per day per patient. The most recent data from 2021 show that a staggering 80% of healthcare facilities in the West African country are without basic water services and less than 1% of its population has piped water at home. Globally, a quarter of all healthcare facilities are without basic water services and in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which includes Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo–the latest country to fight an Ebola outbreak–this number grows to half of all healthcare facilities. Without access to WASH services in healthcare settings and in communities at-large, global health security cannot be achieved.(more…)
As Cyclone Tauktae hurtled toward India’s west coast on May 17, a grim scenario outlined in Amitav Ghosh’s eloquent meditation on climate change, The Great Derangement, suddenly loomed as a distinct possibility. A direct hit on the megapolis of Mumbai, India’s financial capital, Ghosh wrote, could wreak damage far greater than the city’s monster flood of 2005. To the prospect of massive flooding and failure of essential services, Ghosh added the spectacle of corrugated iron roofs from the city’s teeming informal settlements turning into deadly projectiles slamming into its upscale glass towers, and major radioactive leakage in the city’s decades-old nuclear complex. The scenario is only too realistic, and may presage frequent complex emergency moments in South Asia, in which multiple risks (ranging from climate change to health, geopolitics, and governance) converge in a positive feedback loop, creating extensive dislocation and damage to large human populations.
The Arabian Sea, on the coast of which Mumbai is located, has historically seen far less cyclonic activity than the more turbulent Bay of Bengal to its east. Bangladesh and the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, for example, are no strangers to major storms and attendant evacuation of tens of millions of people – with a potential new cyclone brewing even at the time of writing. But the Arabian Sea’s major urban agglomerations in South Asia – Mumbai and Karachi – but also Goa, Kochi, Mangalore and others, have generally had an easy ride, with Mumbai not seeing a serious cyclone in its vicinity in four decades.(more…)
Late summer 2020 is serving as yet another reminder that the 21st century will be profoundly shaped by complex and compounding emergencies. In the United States alone, the confluence of severe natural disasters with the COVID-19 pandemic is jarring even those of us who focus on such threats for a living. Multiple hurricanes and tropical storms are proceeding toward the East and Gulf Coasts. The wildfire season across the Western U.S. is creating apocalyptic conditions. As Robinson Meyer described in The Atlantic, “In 2018…I noted that six of the 10 largest wildfires in state history had happened since 2008. That list has since been completely rewritten. Today, six of California’s 10 largest wildfires have happened since 2018—and five of them have happened this year.” At the same time, as of mid-September the nation is still seeing around 39,000 new COVID-19 cases being reported each day as we near a staggering 200,000 deaths from this pandemic. These events are overlaid on the profound shifts resulting from decades of injustice and systemic racism in our society.(more…)
The Chandler Foundation recently released its “Social Investor” magazine, an influential guide to philanthropists and a particularly important one during a time of crisis. In a section titled “Climate Philanthropy Matters,” the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Laurie Goering interviewed the Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security and Council on Strategic Risks, Francesco Femia, about what the COVID-19 crisis can teach nations about preparing their critical infrastructure for climate change. Mr. Femia highlighting the need for “massive investments in resilience” as well as “climate-proofing” that infrastructure. Read the except below (from page 68), and the entire publication here.(more…)