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Health Rights &Peace/Conflict Bill Brieger | 31 Dec 2008 09:53 am

Human rights abuses contribute to malaria

Medecins Sans Frontieres neglect-of-water_sm_bbc.jpgrecently listed 10 top crisis areas that highlight in many instances the interrelation between human rights abuses and poor health. Recent news on two of these areas, Zimbabwe and Burma, shows even stronger links to malaria.

ZWNews quotes an IRIN report: “‘There is no food, we have malnutrition, there is cholera, now we are expecting a malaria outbreak,’ said an exasperated Amanda Weisbaum, the emergency manager for Save the Children, UK, in Zimbabwe.” After suffering cholera and malnutrition, “With the onset of rain, there are mounting concerns of a possible malaria outbreak ravaging immune systems weakened by cholera and malnutrition, ‘especially among those aged under five,’ said Weisbaum.”

The government even recognizes the threat of the rainy season. The Herald reports that …

HARARE City Council has embarked on a programme to clear stormwater drains with the assistance of residents under the food-for-work programme at a time the United Nations Children’s Fund has contracted trucks to speed up the removal of refuse in the city as a measure to curb the spread of malaria and cholera.Under the programme, residents in high-density suburbs are paid for clearing the drainage systems in their respective areas.

A BBC reporter notes that, “The country that was once the jewel in Africa’s crown, able to feed itself, heal its sick and educate its people to the highest standards on the continent, is now in a pitiful state.” The BBC has been showing the link between Zimbabwe’s current problems and its human rights violations that contributed to the present economic, political and health crises.

In eastern Burma “Access to maternal health-care is extremely limited and poor nutrition, anemia and malaria are widespread in eastern Burma, which increases the risk of pregnancy complications,” was a finding of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University, as reported in Medical News Today. The full article in PLoS Medicine reported that, “Few women had received iron supplements or had used insecticide-treated bednets to avoid malaria-carrying mosquitos. Consequently, more than half the women were anemic and 7.2% were infected with malaria parasites.”

The Burma situation results from “Human rights violations – such as displacement and forced labor – (that) are also widely present, and in some communities forced relocation doubled the risk of women developing anemia and greatly decreased their chances of receiving any antenatal care.”

A disregard for human rights and a breakdown of health services, especially for the most vulnerable, appear to go hand in hand. Another call for peace in 2009 is urgent.

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