Danger Looms As Foodborne Diseases Hit Alarming Levels
Food safety is an increasingly important public health issue and governments all over the world are intensifying their efforts to improve food safety. These efforts are in response to an increasing number of food safety problems like foodborne diseases. According to the world health organization, these are diseases usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food.
Magnitude Of Foodborne Illness
Foodborne diseases are a widespread and growing public health problem, both in developed and developing countries. The global incidence of foodborne disease is difficult to estimate, but it has been reported that in 2005 alone 1.8 million people died from diarrhoeal diseases and ever since, this number is believed to have increased. A great proportion of these cases can be attributed to contamination of food and drinking water. Additionally, diarrhoea is a major cause of malnutrition in infants and young children.
In industrialized countries, the percentage of the population suffering from foodborne diseases each year has been reported to be up to 30%. In the United States of America (USA), for example, around 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year. While less well documented, developing countries bear the brunt of the problem due to the presence of a wide range of foodborne diseases, including those caused by parasites. The high prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases in many developing countries suggests major underlying food safety problems.
While most foodborne diseases are sporadic and often not reported, foodborne disease outbreaks may take on massive proportions. For example, in 1994, an outbreak of salmonellosis due to contaminated ice cream occurred in the USA, affecting an estimated 224,000 persons. In 1988, an outbreak of hepatitis A, resulting from the consumption of contaminated clams, affected some 300,000 individuals in China.
Major Foodborne Diseases A Glance
Salmonellosis: Thisis a major problem in most countries. Salmonellosis is caused by the Salmonella bacteria and symptoms are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Examples of foods involved in outbreaks of salmonellosis are eggs, poultry and other meats, raw milk and chocolate.
Campylobacteriosis: This is a wide spreadinfection that is caused by certain species of Campylobacter bacteria and in some countries, the reported number of cases surpasses the incidence of salmonellosis. Foodborne cases are mainly caused by foods such as raw milk, raw or undercooked poultry and drinking water. Acute health effects of campylobacteriosis include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and diarrhoea. In two to ten per cent of cases the infection may lead to chronic health problems, including reactive arthritis and neurological disorders.
Cholera: This disease is increasingly becoming synonymous with the developing world thus a major public health problem. The disease is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. In addition to water, contaminated foods can be the vehicle of infection. Different foods, including rice, vegetables, millet gruel and various types of seafood have been implicated in outbreaks of cholera. Symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting and profuse watery diarrhoea, may lead to severe dehydration and possibly death, unless fluid and salt are replaced.
The list is endless but what is more important to note is how to lessen the outbreak of these diseases. The world ought to join hands in promoting food safety through senstisation and policy formulation among other initiatives. These efforts should cover the entire food chain from production to consumption should embrace all types of expertise world over.
Residents Warned Over River Encroachment
July 2, 2012
Environmentalists in Western Uganda are expressing concern over the persistent encroachment on river banks. They say this must stop to avert problems like reduction of the river water levels, silting of the rivers as well as environmental degradation.
Some of the rivers and streams adversely affected by the act include River Rwizi and River Kagera in Western Uganda.
Jeconius Musingwire the national Environmental management authority (NEMA) focal person in western Uganda says the need for agricultural land, sand quarrying, over grazing and charcoal burning, have caused more harm than good to the banks of river Rwizi.
He adds that such human activities have led to far-reaching effects. “ The water levels are reducing every now and again which means that towns like Mbarara that use piped water pumped from River Rwizi will face acute water shortages especially in the dry spell more than ever” Musingwire adds.
He explicates that as the result of human activity, soils from upstream end up in the river because of the bare banks causing silting.
Despite the damage already inflicted, the good news is that the situation is reversible.
“We need adopt environment conservation practices to save our land from the effects of climatic change” Musingwire advises.
He explains that protecting the river banks through planting of trees on the already damaged banks as well as in the upstream areas and implementing environmental policies and legislations will save the country from a looming catastrophe.
Residents Cry Foul Over Hospital Staffing
June 24, 2012
Health service delivery in Bugamba Sub County in Mbarara district will deteriorate if the issue of understaffing at Bugamba health centre IV is not urgently addressed.
The health facility which serves over 3000 people has only 8 health workers out of a total of 49 workers who are supposed to be there. Area residents now say the limited number of health workers is affecting service delivery at this multi-million shillings Centre. “The health centre opens late and due to the big patients to doctors ratio, some patients go back home without getting treatment” sadly noted Kizza Denis a resident of Byanamira cell in Bugamba adding that this issue has not got adequate attention from the leaders.
This facility has recently acquired a fully furnished operation theatre which now faces a prospect of lying idle for some time as long as the issue of few workers is not solved.
With the rugged terrain of the area which complicates access to the health centre, inadequate staffing is an aggravation of the health complications in the area. “There is nothing that hurts as reaching the hospital after such a long journey only to be told that you cannot be worked on since the workers are tired because they have been working on many patients” Benon Zebikire a resident of kitojjo cell which is about 10 kilometers from hospital said.
The Public Outcry
With this state of affairs, residents have more often voiced their concerns over this issue but all in vain.
The sub county chairperson Grace Bwire acknowledges the problem. “My office is aware of this problem and we have received many complaints from our people as well. We have forwarded our grievances to the top authorities for redress” he explained adding that they have even notified the area member of parliament Vicent Mujuni Kyamadidi who comes from the nearby village about the issue.
Stake Holders Intervention
In march this year, the coalition for health promotion and social development Uganda (HEPS), a non-governmental organization that seeks to promote health rights and responsibilities launched the HEAR project which is currently under implementation in many sub counties of Mbarara district including Bugamba.
Under this project, people are empowered to know their health rights and responsibilities. “Once people know their health rights, they will take them up or demand for explanations and actions from the people concerned” noted Pilagia Tusiime the project coordinator. “When people speak out with one voice, they are easily heard than we in the NGOs because sometimes we are misunderstood” Rosette Mutambi, the HEPS executive director elaborated during a 2 days community leaders training about health rights and responsibilities held at Bugamba community hall that ended on June 21.
Heps on Health Challenges
The case of Bugamba health centre IV is a small drop in the ocean. All health centres and hospitals in the country are faced with the same problems of under staffing, inadequate medicines and equipment, water and power shortages among others.
However Mutambi attributes all this to poor funding of the health sector. “Our national budget for health is so small. In the past years, the country’s health budget has been around 13 percent of the national budget but it might reduce for this financial year (2012/13) which is unfortunate” Rosette Mutambi sadly noted adding that with such a small budget, health issues like under staffing will persist.
Her voice is an addition to other calls by different stake holders advocating for more funding to the sector for a healthy population as an old adage goes “A healthy nation is a wealthy one”.