Thursday, September 24, 2015

The annual bungling of the annual cholera outbreak

The cholera outbreak continues in Iraq.  Press TV notes there are at least 121 cases currently and that Iraq's Ministry of Health spokesperson Rifaq al-Araji "mainly held low water levels in the Euphrates responsible for the cholera outbreak in Iraq, saying that simmering temperatures during summer months may have activated the bacterium that causes the disease."

And that helps how?

To its credit,  Reuters notes:

Cholera is spread mainly through contaminated water and food and, if untreated, can lead to death by dehydration and kidney failure within hours.
Iraq’s water and sewerage systems are outdated and infrastructure development has been hindered by years of war and neglect. Poor public services were a catalyst for street protests last month in Baghdad.

The annual cholera outbreak rarely finds people telling the truth.

Let's drop back to September 13, 2008 for one of the most shameful moments:

Yesterday, a press conference was held in Baghdad during which is was noted, "The disease is epidemic in Iraq." The disease is cholera. Participating were Iraq's Minster of Health Dr. Salith al-Hasnawi, Dr. Tahseen al-Sheikhly and WHO's Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer (who was a public menace). And there was plenty of time to slam the press, excuse the puppet government, blame individual Iraqis and what has to be seen as encouragement of attacks on Iraqi women. It was a complete embarrassment and the United Nations should be ashamed that a rep for the World Health Organization not only participated but launched her own attacks.
Dr. al-Sheikhly started the conference insiting that "we decided today that the Iraqi government is going to deal with this topic with total frank". Apparently that decision required him immediately handing off to al-Hasnawi who gave the figures for cholera as "36 confirmed cases: 20 cases in Babil Province, 1 in Maysan, 13 in Karkh District in Baghdad. We had 6 but the confirmative test added 7 -- 3 in Mahmudiyah, 4 in Yusufiyah. Rusafa District had 1 case coming from Kut, it was dected in Rusafa. Today we confirmed a second case in Mada'in."
Moving from confirmed to suspected cases, he declared, "It is 86 cases: 20 in Maysan, they are new, suspected; 39 in Karkh suspected; 6 in Karbala; 1 in Nasiriyah; 1 in Najaf cases. All of them would cause...would make 86. The mortalities of cholera were 6 only." Later, he would add, "In Hillah now, we have 19 suspected cases."
"Total frank" flew out the window early on. al-Sheikhly declared there was six deaths from cholera at the opening of the press conference and would later insist "only five death . . . mortalities." The numbers given were in doubt and anyone counting on WHO representative Dr. al-Gasseer to clear up the numbers was hoping in vain. She stayed clear of the number issue although she did find time to play journalism professor: "Media can be negative affect also. Your role is to deliver the information rapidly in order to help us stop spreading the disease." Much later in the press conference, al-Hasnawi would chime in with his own journalism lesson, "The media buzz. it has maybe negative results that would affect the social life and affect the people."
Iraq doesn't have a free press and while it's easy to snicker at 'advice' from the puppet government, WHO shames itself and the United Nations by participating in attacks on the press in a region that knowingly attacks the press. That was disgraceful and the United Nations should be ashamed for taking part in that farce. They allowed themselves to be a shield. If you're missing that fact, much later in the press conference, al-Sheikhly would reply to a question with, "If you would allow me, I would like the WHO to answer as being neutral side."
[. . .]
Admitting that lack of potable water was the cause ("the big reason"), al-Hasnawi declared "the committee is going to have plans. We're going to have rapid procedures and strategies for the long term, for the midterm." Oh really? Much later in the press conference, a timeframe would be mentioned by al-Hasnawi, "Within 10 years, our infrastructure is going to be finished for the first 8 centers and providing treatment and the staff. The outcomes are going to be witnessed after years." Well isn't that something to take pride in? In 10 years, 8 centers (the first eight, mind you) will be functional.
In addition As-Salam Satellite Channel pointed out that despite promises from Nouri al-Maliki (puppet of the occupation) that villages would receive water tanks, the tanks have not been received. al-Sheikhly replied, "Mr. Prime Minister allocated 16 water tanker to be sent to the areas that are having shortage due to some cuts in the water pipe...waterline. Also, the area that you are talking about, maybe within the coming days they would reach the tank...they would receive a tanker." He went on to declare that the promise was made when a water pipe was broken.
So why wasn't anything done?
al-Hasnawi would go on to declare that there was nothing to worry about because WHO was assisting. There is a cholera outbreak and WHO is allowing it to be minimized. al-Hasnawi asserted, "The shortages of medications, who said that the Ministry of Health now needs medications with an expiration to the cholera cases? WHO is present." He then declared of the outbreak, "It happens in everybody -- in every country in the world, not only in the ministry of Iraq." Golly, it's hard to think of another country with all the billions Iraq has (not to mention the billions the US is spending) that faces cholera outbreaks every year.
As if the press conference could not become more of a joke, the United Nation's figure began not just using outdated terminology ("housewife") but blaming women for the outbreak of cholera, " As you are individual responsible at your house, if you do not control your family – how they cook food, how they wash their food, if the woman...the housewife there does not have correct information about how to deal with food – this is your responsibility. I would tell...there is a formal responsibility and local responsibility."
The idiot then returned to the issue of lecturing and hectoring the media. Someone explain to the United Nations that the good doctor needs a good ass kicking. That was so shameful and so embarrassing and it sullies the reputation of the UN. And no one needs her climbing on the cross about how 'rough' things are for her: "I cannot call everybody from the international community." No? Well how about you just trying doing your damn job and if that's too much work for you, how about you try finding another job because all you are is a public embarrassment.
WHO again took an issue of potable water and attempted to turn the puppet government's failures into a lacking in individual Iraqi citizens: ". . . how to deal with food and personal hygiene. I have asked the minister that the clergymen need and do have a big responsibility. They need to spread this line of cleanliness." That statement is all the more offensive when you consider the attacks on women and when you take in what "cleanliness" connates in a fundamentalist society. Repeating, the United Nations SHOULD BE ASHAMED.

But the annual cholera outbreak provides shame for so many, as is demonstrated year after year.

Reuters deserves credit for providing the basics (while others just carry the nonsensical ravings of a government spokesperson) but to be really clear, let's go to Doctors Without Borders:

Cholera often breaks out when there is overcrowding and inadequate access to clean water, trash collection, and proper toilets. It causes profuse diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to death by intense dehydration, sometimes within a matter of hours. 

The Iraqi people are not at fault.

And since this go round isn't even mentioning purification tablets, they're actually being failed in ways they weren't in previous outbreaks.

But the press needs to stop treating this as "Oh My Goodness! Cholera! How Strange!"

No, how expected.

It happens every time this year.

Some times the western press covers it, other times they ignore it.

But it happens every year.

And the fault is the Iraqi government.

There's no excuse for it.

Oh, the river is low, is it?

Well you can send in tanks of water (or ice -- Nouri was fond of ice at election time to try to garner votes -- tanks of ice).  You can also get off your corrupt and lazy ass and start working on the public infrastructure which would not only improve health conditions, it would also create jobs and Iraqis -- pay attention the demands of the protesters -- need jobs.

The cholera story could be covered in so many ways.  Instead, it's treated as though, "Hey, look over here!"  And then it vanishes until next year.  No one ever connects it as an ongoing event.  No one ever makes demands on behalf of the Iraqi people.

It's headline news, not reporting.

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