National Geographic
National Geographic 24 May 2020

When Cities Were Cesspools of Disease


Cities of the 19th century were breeding grounds for disease. Find out how poor living conditions played a role and how the discovery of the germ led to public health reforms still seen today.

Is climate change increasing the risk of certain diseases for Europeans? We ask a leading expert in our report from Sweden. Plus we bring you the very latest data on how the planet is changing, with the most recent record-breaking figures for April 2020 from the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented global health crisis in many ways. But the emergence of the
disease is also part of an alarming pattern. Scientists say the number of new infectious diseases in humans like SARS, MERS and
COVID-19 has risen dramatically over the last decades.A study showed that the number of emerging infectious diseases in humans almost
quadrupled between 1940 and 2000. And it's not just that there are more types of disease. The total number of outbreaks is rising
too. In fact, the total number of outbreaks of all diseases, both old and new, has roughly
tripled since 1980. So what is causing the rise of new infectious diseases in our world today? And how do
humans contribute?
Statues built after the American Civil War to honour leaders who fought to defend slavery have often been a flashpoint, as they are now in cities such as Richmond in the US state of Virginia.

Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy - the 11 pro-slavery southern states which lost their bid to break away when they were defeated in the US Civil War.

Protesters in Richmond last week set fire to the home of the "Daughters of the Confederacy", who are dedicated to preserving Confederate monuments.

The statue of Confederate General William Wickham was pulled down on Saturday, something his own descendants had called for years ago.

And Virginia's governor announced plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee.

Maurice Jackson, associate professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University, talks to Al Jazeera.
Without additional funding, war-torn Yemen will be left to fight the Covid-19 pandemic with a collapsed health system, warned today the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Epidemiologists estimate that the virus could spread faster, more widely and with deadlier consequences in some of the world's most vulnerable populations than in many other countries.

Speaking to a virtual press conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Jens Larke, spokesperson for the OCHA said that "Yemen is really on the brink right now. The situation is extremely alarming, they are talking about that the health system has in effect collapsed. They are talking about having to turn people away because they do not have enough oxygen. They do not have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), that the numbers that are officially reported are important parts, as I said, we are working on the assumption that there is widespread communal transmission going on".

With only half of Yemen's health facilities fully functioning, funding for the country's aid operation is crucial with up to USD 2 billion required until the end of the year. The UN and Saudi Arabia will co-host a virtual pledging event on 2 June to support fund raising.

"We are heading towards a fiscal cliff", said OCHA's spokesperson. "If we do not get the money coming in, the programs that are keeping people alive and are very much essential to fight back against Covid will have to close. And then, the world will have to witness what happens in a country without a functioning health system battling Covid 19 and I do not think that one will see that".

More than 30 key UN programmes risk closing in the coming weeks due to a funding lack. Covid Rapid Response Teams are funded only for the next six weeks.

According to the World Healths Organisation's latest figures, Yemen has 184 cases of the disease and 30 deaths.

However, "the actual incidence is almost certainly much higher", stated Jens Laerke. "Tests remain in short supply, aid agencies in Yemen are operating on the basis that community transmission is taking place across the country, and only half of the health facilities are fully functioning. Yemen's health system needs significant assistance to counter the threat of Covid-19. Humanitarian aid agencies are scaling up outreach, prevention and case management. "

Some 125 metric tons of supplies have arrived, while over 6,600 metric tons of tests, personal protective equipment and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) supplies are in the pipeline.

However, oxygen and personal protective equipment are more urgently needed. Preserving large-scale existing aid programmes in health, water and sanitation, nutrition and other sectors also offers an essential defense against infection for millions of people.

On Tursday (21 May), a UN flight arrived in Yemen's capital Aden with more international staff on board.

Laerke said that "colleagues both in and out of the country are working together to deliver critical programs, this includes some international staff working remotely as well as international staff remain in Yemen and Yemeni national staff. Yemeni national staff remain the large majority of aid workers in Yemen".

The war in Yemen has been ongoing since 2014 when Houthis took control of Yemen's north and captured the capital Sanaa, forcing the UN-recognized government there to flee to southern city of Aden. Since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab countries has been battling the Houthi rebels to reinstate the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi creating the world's worst humanitarian crisis and leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.

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