Haiti’s government says 230,000 people died in the Jan. 12 earthquake - as many as the 2004 Asian tsunami killed in a dozen nations - but it remains unclear who’s doing the counting, the Associated Press reports. The Joint Task Force in charge of the global response to the quake - foreign governments and militaries, U.N. agencies and Haitian government officials - quotes only the death toll issued by Haiti’s government. And that government, whose infrastructure was devastated by the quake, hasn’t been able to explain its methodology. No foreign government or independent agency has issued its own death toll. Many agencies that usually can help estimate casualty numbers say they are too busy helping the living to keep track of the dead.
Africans suffering from malaria may be getting sub-standard treatment, a study by U.S.-based experts has suggested. Researchers from the Pharmacopeia group found that between 26percent and 44percent of anti-malaria drugs in Uganda, Senegal and Madagascar were of poor quality. The group, conducting the study for the World Health Organization (WHO), said low-grade drugs were being used in both public and private health practices. The experts subjected 200 samples of anti-malaria drugs to quality-control testing in a US laboratory. They found 44percent of the drugs from Senegal failed the testing, followed by 30percent from Madagascar and 26percent from Uganda, the BBC reports. Some 90percent of malaria deaths in the world occur in Africa.
Aid groups in Pakistan need nearly $538 million over the next six months to help hundreds of thousands of people displaced by army clashes against the Taliban, the U.N. said in an international appeal Feb. 9. The appeal comes as much of the world’s attention is focused on helping earthquake-devastated Haiti and as security remains tenuous along Pakistan’s northwest border with Afghanistan. A largely successful army offensive in the Swat Valley and surrounding districts has meant some 1.7 million people have returned home since being displaced last year, according to the U.N. Still, security in parts of the semiautonomous tribal belt and other areas is deteriorating, leading to new internal refugees. An estimated 1 million Pakistanis remain displaced. Most of the refugees are staying with host families, but tens of thousands are in relief camps.
The U.N. Security Council has welcomed the communiqué from the recent international conference on Afghanistan, saying it set a clear agenda and agreed priorities for peace and security in the country, and was underpinned by a comprehensive strategy for the Government in Kabul. “The members of the Council voiced support for the priorities agreed to at the London Conference on security, governance and economic development,” the 15-member body said in a press statement read out by Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, which holds the Council”s monthly presidency for February. The Security Council statement referred to the gathering of some 70 nations in London on Jan. 28 to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan following last year’s elections, in which Hamid Karzai won another term as President.
The great weight of science still supports the findings in a landmark 2007 report from a U.N.-backed panel of experts that global warming is man-made, the head of UNEP said following recent attacks from climate change skeptics over a mistake in the assessment. Defending the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) against criticism for a mistake made in its 2007 report over the rate at which the Himalayan glaciers would melt, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that the panel has drawn upon the expertise of thousands of the best scientific minds for some 22 years. He also warned that even without climate change the fact remains that a global transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient future is necessary, given the world’s population is rise from 6 billion to 9 billion in the next 50 years.
Fourteen island developing nations in the Pacific Ocean wrapped up a United Nations-backed meeting this week with a call to the global community to honour its commitments to help them weather the fallout from global economic crises and recent natural disasters.
“External assistance, through development aid, debt relief and foreign investment, is needed to support the Pacific on its path to equitable economic growth,” U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer told the high-level forum in Port Vila, Vanuatu. “Pacific island economies are vulnerable for a number of reasons. They are isolated, small in size, lacking in resources, subject to a high frequency of natural disasters and vulnerable to rising sea levels,” she said, noting that global economic crises and recent natural disasters had affected the islands’ halting recovery from the earlier food and fuel crises.