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Disaster Risk Reduction

Please Don't Let An Earthquake Hit When I'm In The Shower

A bicyclist passes a home damaged in a 2011 earthquake at Bhaktapur, some 7 miles southeast of Kathmandu. Prakash Mathema /AFP/Getty Images

Image: A bicyclist passes a home damaged in a 2011 earthquake at Bhaktapur, some 7 miles southeast of Kathmandu.
Prakash Mathema /AFP/Getty Images - February 25th 2015 - Donatella Lorch

What would you do if you lived in a city where you faced the world's greatest risk of dying in a catastrophic earthquake?

I like to believe that I'm prepared. I have water, blankets, sleeping bags, a tent, dry food, a crow bar, shovel, charcoal and "go-bags" for each family member — hiking knapsacks filled with clothing, documents, rope and flashlights and stored in a one-room shed in my yard.


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U.S. military ends Ebola mission in Liberia

REUTERS    by  James Harding Giahyue                                                          Feb. 26, 2015

MONROVIA -- The United States military officially ended a mission to build treatment facilities to combat an Ebola outbreak in Liberia on Thursday, months earlier than expected, in the latest indication that a year-long epidemic in West Africa is waning.

Washington launched the mission five months ago and the force peaked at over 2,800 troops at a time when Liberia was at the epicenter of the worst Ebola epidemic on record....

"While our large scale military mission is ending...the fight to get to zero cases will continue and the (Joint Force Command) has ensured capabilities were brought that will be sustained in the future," U.S. Army Major General Gary Volesky....

Speaking to lawmakers during a visit to Washington on Thursday, Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf thanked the United States for its support during the crisis.

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Ebola spending: will lack of a positive legacy turn dollars to dolour?

Millions were invested in west Africa to tackle the Ebola crisis, but some experts doubt there will be any lasting benefits for public health systems


LONDON -- While it is still too early to call time on the Ebola outbreak, a sense that the worst may have passed is tentatively taking root in west Africa, alongside an acute realisation of the need to ensure a positive long-term legacy for battered healthcare systems.

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Lessons From Africa's Hard-Won Victory Over Ebola

BLOOMBERG  Commentary      by Charles Kenney                                              Feb. 3, 2015
...Without good surveillance, disease threats can fester undetected until they are considerably harder to contain. At the moment, countries simply declare they have the capacity to meet global standards and the WHO takes their word for it. There should be a system of independent review, backed up with international assistance and support to ensure that all countries really do have the capacity to track infectious disease outbreaks and control their spread across borders.

....the global health research system is primarily driven by market pressures. The cost of bringing a drug through the regulatory processes to market averages around $1 billion. That's a big reason why pharmaceutical companies would rather spend money on treatments for the diseases of the rich than for conditions that largely affect people in countries like Liberia...

There are two approaches to deal with that problem: lower the cost of drug development and increase the market for the products that emerge. ...

To increase demand, governments can club together to create an "advanced market commitment": If a drug developer produces a vaccine or therapy that meets certain standards, donors precommit to buy it in bulk....

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After Ebola, World Bank Chief Proposes Global Insurance Program For Future Outbreaks


World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim is proposing emerging nations, developed countries and global aid organizations participate in a kind of insurance system to help pay for health crises like West Africa's Ebola outbreak. “We need to prepare for future pandemics that could become far more deadly and infectious than we we have seen so far with Ebola,” Kim told an audience at Georgetown University on Tuesday. “We must learn the lessons from the Ebola outbreak because there is no doubt we will be faced with other pandemics in the years to come.”

 ...according to Kim, the recent outbreak could be just the beginning. And world leaders need a plan.  

He said World Bank officials informally discussed the possibility of a “pandemic response facility” with the World Health Organization, United Nations and other international actors last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“This could work like insurance policies that people understand, like fire insurance,” Kim said. “The more that you are prepared for a fire, such as having several smoke detectors in your home, the lower the premium you pay.”

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Ebola infection of humans linked to population density and vegetation cover

MEDICAL NEWS TODAY                                             Jan. 22, 2015

Ebola is a "zoonotic" disease: the virus starts out in animal populations - believed to be fruit bats - and then spills over into humans. Now, a new study that investigates landscape features of where spillover occurs suggests human population density and vegetation cover may be important factors.

The researchers examined landscape features of precise geo-locations of Ebola spillover into humans.

The study is the work of two researchers from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, who write about their findings in the open-access journal PeerJ.

First author Michael G. Walsh, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in SUNY Downstate's School of Public Health, says they found significant interaction between density of human populations and the extent of green vegetation cover in the parts of Africa that have seen outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (EVD).

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Geographic information helps provide public health intelligence at mass gatherings

MEDICALNEWS TODAY                                                            Jan. 6, 2015

Infectious diseases are one of the many health issues that worry the organizers of mass gatherings, such as the Hajj and the World Cup. Geographers' tools of the trade can help event organizers to better plan, monitor and respond timely to such eventualities. The ways in which geographers gather, analyze, and visualize information provide health officials with clearer pictures of the transport routes and environmental factors that may further the spread of viruses to and from the attendees' home countries.

In Chapter 3 of the new book Health, Science and Place: A New Model, geographer and biologist Dr. Amy Blatt explains how geographic information is used for disease surveillance at mass gatherings.
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Read excerpt from the book,chapter 3.

by Dr. Amy Blatt

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Fight against Ebola requires district-by-district approach – head of UN response mission

UNITED NATIONS NEWS CENTRE                                                                                 Dec. 30, 2014

MONROVIA, Liberia --The outgoing head of the head of the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response Mission (UNMEER) said today that communities are going to play a big role in defeating the “nasty disease” in West Africa by stamping out outbreaks while they are small and not allowing them to become bigger.

The body of a suspected Ebola case in Sierra Leone is taken by an International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) team on 24 December to the cemetery where it was buried in a dignified way. UN Photo/Martine Perret

“Ebola is a very nasty disease, and it’s going to present us with some very unpleasant surprises I fear going forward,” Anthony Banbury told UN Radio in Monrovia, Liberia. “And that’s why we really need to strengthen our capabilities.....”

...While acknowledging the difficulty in getting Ebola response workers to some of the remote areas, he emphasized the importance of a district by district strategy and said: “We really need to be present out in the districts....”

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Next in Ebola Plan: UN Teams to Study Lines of Transmission

REUTERS                                                              Dec. 24, 2014

ACCRA—Medical detective work will be the next big phase in the fight against Ebola when the United Nations deploys hundreds of health workers to identify chains of infection as the virus passes from person to person, top U.N. health workers said.
Health workers bury the body of a suspected Ebola victim at a cemetery in Freetown, Dec. 21, 2014.

The health teams will travel to each district and region of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries at the center of the epidemic, to trace who each infected person has potentially contacted.

The effort will run in parallel with measures to minimize the spread of infection, such as treating all Ebola patients in specialized centers and burying all victims safely.

But Phase Two of the plan is to contain the virus by understanding its lines of transmission, said World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan.

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World Bank Supports The Gambia’s Ebola Prevention Plan

WORLD BANK PRESS RELEASE                                Dec. 22, 2014

The World Bank has approved a US$500,000 reallocation of existing development funds from on-going health and nutrition projects to support The Gambia prepare a plan in case of  a possible Ebola outbreak.

While there have been no reported cases of Ebola in The Gambia, its Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, has nonetheless prepared a disease and Ebola preparedness plan.

 “The Ebola epidemic in neighboring countries has affected tourism in The Gambia as people are afraid to travel to and within Africa, resulting in great economic losses for the country,” said Vera Songwe, the World Bank Country Director for The Gambia. “We acknowledge that the virus is expanding both geographically and in the number of reported cases. The spread from Guinea to Mali highlights the escalating risk to regional security, stability and economic growth.

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