Antibiotic waste is polluting India and China’s rivers; big pharma must act

Antibiotic waste is polluting India and China’s rivers; big pharma must act. The Guardian, October 25, 2016.

Pollution from drugs factories, many in India and China, is causing the spread of anti-microbial resistance. Pharma companies are under pressure to act 


A strain of the E coli bacteria. Pollution from pharmaceutical production is a factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Illustration: Janice Carr/AP

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are a fundamental threat to global health, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon recently told a general assembly meeting. Failure to address the problem, he said, would make it “difficult if not impossible” to provide universal healthcare, “and it will put the sustainable development goals in jeopardy”.

For pharmaceutical companies the attention on antimicrobial resistance has also brought a focus on one of its key drivers: the unabated environmental pollution of drug factories in developing countries.

In India and China, where a large proportion of antibiotics are produced, the poorly regulated discharge of untreated wastewater into soils and rivers is causing the spread of antibiotic ingredients which cause bacteria to develop immunity to antibiotics, creating superbugs.

A study of wastewater factories in China found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria were not only escaping purification but also breeding. For every bacterium that entered one waste treatment plant, four or five antibiotic-resistant bacteria were released into the water system, tainting water, livestock and communities.

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Use public money to fund Africa’s water and sewerage systems

Use public money to fund Africa’s water and sewerage systems. Mail & Guardian Africa, October 25, 2016.

Developed countries used government revenue rather than private funds to build infrastructure, so why not Africa?

African stakeholders have called for water supply and sanitation to be a priority at the next meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They want the November meeting of COP22 to integrate issues related to water supply and sanitation with the climate change agenda.


A refugee waits to collect water from a well at the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan on April 17 2013. (Andreea Campeanu, Reuters)

Some progress has been made on water and sanitation in the past 20 years. Under the millennium development goals, rates of access in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 20% for drinking water and 6% for sanitation between 1990 and 2015.

But far more needs to be done. Population growth means the number of people without access to drinking water increased from 265-million in 1990 to 316-million in 2015 and those without safe sanitation from 388-million to 692-million.

The sector is in dire need of extensive investment. Estimates vary slightly but, to achieve the millennium development goal targets, Africa would have to spend about $15-billion annually; current spending is about $3.6-billion.

To close the gap, there is support for greater private investment in water in developing countries. But the reality is that the financing gap in Africa can only be addressed viably and equitably with a major increase in public investment.

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Emergence of community toilets as a public good: The sanitation work of Mahila Milan, NSDF and SPARC in India

Emergence of community toilets as a public good: The sanitation work of Mahila Milan, NSDF and SPARC in India, 2016. SHARE.

This report summarises SHARE-supported sanitation work in India. It outlines how a sanitation strategy was developed, and the execution of multi-decadal projects that have resulted in a number of cities renewing their commitment to invest in city-wide sanitation.


The e-waste mountains – in pictures

The e-waste mountains – in pictures. The Guardian, October 18 2016.

Sustainable development goal target 12.5 is to reduce waste. But with a planet increasingly dependent on technology, is that even possible?


As of today, over 30m tonnes of electronic waste has been thrown out so far this year, according to the World Counts. Most e-waste is sent to landfills in Asia and Africa where it is recycled by hand, exposing the people who do it to environmental hazards. Photograph: Kai Loeffelbein/laif

Kai Loeffelbein’s photographs of e-waste recycling in Guiyu, southern China show what happens to discarded computers.

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Science, Silver Bullets, and Sanitation: How Operational Research Improved Plan’s Global Programming

Science, Silver Bullets, and Sanitation: How Operational Research Improved Plan’s Global Programming. 

Plan International is a pioneer of the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach — a method that triggers community-wide behavior change on sanitation practices, ending open defecation, and stimulating household investment in toilets.

We tested, implemented, and evaluated the relative effect of different CLTS facilitation methods to examine how scalability and sustainability improved under alternate models. This comparison was coupled with “deep dive” evaluations in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya, complemented by seven rapid evaluations worldwide to compare and contrast the findings.

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Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda

Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda. CitiScope, Oct 20 2016.

Good urban planning can’t happen without a better understanding of informal settlements, advocates say.

Earlier this year, when the Liberian government wanted to demolish informal housing in the West Point section of Monrovia, local community members had a strong argument to dissuade them.


West Point, Monrovia. (Nick Fraser/flickr/cc)

Thanks to a slum profiling initiative done the previous year through Shack/Slum Dwellers International, the community knew that many of West Point’s rudimentary, wooden toilets — so-called “hanging toilets” because of how they are built over the water — were located where the demolitions would take place. The toilets likely would get destroyed too.

Destroying the toilets, they argued, would pose a public health threat.

“That was where we came with our data and said ‘no’,” recalls Bill Jlateh Harris, of Shack/Slum Dwellers International, who lives in West Point. “If you take away [toilets] you expose us to open defecation and disease outbreaks. We appealed to them, using our documents, to stop the demolition exercise. It worked. Those structures are still there, in fact. They were not touched.”

The data community members collected in West Point includes information about the number of taps and toilets in the area, as well as population figures. It is available online through the “Know Your City” campaign, a data initiative from Shack/Slum Dwellers international that provides community-generated data from more than 7,700 communities in 224 cities.

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Using microfinance to facilitate household investment in sanitation in rural Cambodia

Using microfinance to facilitate household investment in sanitation in rural Cambodia. Health Policy and Planning, November 2016.

Authors: Kimberley H Geissler-1, Jeffrey Goldberg-2 and Sheila Leatherman-3. Author affiliations: 1 – University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Amherst, MA 01003, USA. 2 – Office of Water, Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment, US Agency for International Development, Washington, DC, USA. 3 – Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Improved sanitation access is extremely low in rural Cambodia. Non-governmental organizations have helped build local supply side latrine markets to promote household latrine purchase and use, but households cite inability to pay as a key barrier to purchase.

To examine the extent to which microfinance can be used to facilitate household investment in sanitation, we applied a two-pronged assessment: (1) to address the gap between interest in and use of microfinance, we conducted a pilot study to assess microfinance demand and feasibility of integration with a sanitation marketing program and (2) using a household survey (n = 935) at latrine sales events in two rural provinces, we assessed attitudes about microfinance and financing for sanitation.

We found substantial stated intent to use a microfinance institution (MFI) loan to purchase a latrine (27%). Five percent of current owners used an MFI loan for latrine purchase.

Credit officers attended 159 events, with 4761 individuals attending. Actual loan applications were low, with 4% of sales events attendees applying for a loan immediately following the event (mean = 1.7 loans per event).

Ongoing coordination was challenging, requiring management commitment from the sanitation marketing program and commitment to social responsibility from the MFI.

Given the importance of improving sanitation coverage and concomitant health impacts, linking functional sanitation markets to already operational finance markets has the potential to give individuals and households more financial flexibility.

Further product research and better integration of private vendors and financing modalities are necessary to create a scalable microfinance option for sanitation markets.