Not News: Swine Flu, Diarrhea, and Global Inequality

In western Nepal:

More than 200 people have died of diarrhea epidemic in the western parts of Nepal. Epidemiology and Disease Control Division of Nepal has said that hazardous and contaminated water is identified as a major cause of the epidemic.

The total death toll has already crossed the mark of 200 in the districts of Jajarkot, Rukum and Dailekh, according to media reports.Health ministry officials say more than 200 people have died of diarrhea in mid-west regional districts including Jajarlot,Rukum, Dailekh, Salyan, Dang, Rolpa and over 18,000 patients have been treated so far.

The affected area is one to two days walks from major roads. There are less health assistants and medical practitioners in the affected area and most of the people are illiterate. Productivity is very low in the affected area. Food shortage has made the condition even deteriorating. People are dying without medicine and urgent treatment.

In the UK:

Latest Health Protection Agency figures show that, in the week ending July 19, an estimated 100,000 Britons were infected with swine flu - almost double the tally for the previous week.

There have been a total of 26 confirmed deaths in England linked to swine flu. Children under 15 accounted for a third of deaths, while around one in seven victims was previously in good health. At the last count, 840 flu patients were being treated in hospital in England, with 63 in intensive care.

More than 700 people worldwide are known to have died after getting swine flu which the World Health Organisation says is spreading faster than any previous flu pandemic.

Number of google news hits for "'swine flu' uk deaths": about 14,614
Number of google nws hits for "nepal diarrhea deaths": about 51
If you add in alternative spelling for diarrhea, diarrhoea and assume there are no duplicates, you can add another 50, for a total of: about 101.

It would be helpful if people started taking chronic poverty and (global) inequality as a source of medical problems as seriously as they do their fears of swine flu - or various public healthcare options in wealthy countries ;) It is, after all, probably the most serious disease that afflicts people in the world and makes most of the rest possible.

Just for reference's sake, Richard Chin writes in the Huffington Post that "[e]very day, approximately 4,500 poor children under the age of five in developing countries die from this wholly preventable and treatable disease that's been neglected not only by world leaders, but by the media and public as well."  The latest high estimates released for swine flu are 1,000 deaths so far, in total, globally.  

That's not to say swine flu is not serious as a global health consideration- or that neglecting it will help people in poor countries - if anything, at least there's one disease they can die from for which there's attention.   I know LGBT communities and women in much of subSaharan Africa probably would have been better off if HIV had started in straight communities in OECD countries. 

By: on 30 Jul 2009