Share the message to Stop TB in our lifetimes

Today, Sunday, 24 March is World Tuberculosis Day. This is the second year of a 2-year “Stop TB in my lifetime” World TB Day campaign.

Despite all the work already put into eradicating the world of TB, it remains a killer or massive proportions – each day, 4000 people lose their lives to the airborne disease. What makes this number even more tragic is that TB is curable at a reasonably low cost, yet in many regions the fight against the disease remains grossly underfunded.

TB is an airborne disease that is spread from person to person through coughs, sneezes, spits, laughter, speaking and singing. Can the global TB epidemic be stopped in the lifetime of these children?(© All Rights Reserved)
TB is an airborne disease that is spread from person to person through coughs, sneezes, spits, laughter, speaking and singing. Can the global TB epidemic be stopped in the lifetime of these children?
(© All Rights Reserved)

The international health target with regards to TB and HIV-associated TB is to halve the number of TB-related deaths by 2015, compared to 1990 levels. While some parts of the world are on track, the developing world lags behind, with TB-deaths in the African region still being particularly high. According to the World Health Organisation, about 600 000 people died from TB in Africa in 2011 – that is 40% of the global TB death toll. What makes this number significant is that the number of TB deaths in Africa is higher than that of Asia, despite Asia having much higher population numbers, and more TB cases. The difference is that TB in Asia can be more effectively treated thanks to better funding. One of the other problems in Africa is the high levels of TB/HIV co-infection, complicating the treatment regime.

In a potentially positive move, health leaders form the southern African regions (the epicentre of the TB/HIV epidemic in Africa) have come together to address the problem, and they have just released plans for a “1000 day push” to upscale the offensive against TB in Africa, including TB among people living with HIV.

“Armed with a package of new investments and initiatives worth more than US $120 million, the leaders signed the Swaziland Statement, committing them to accelerate progress against the two diseases in the next 1000 days and work with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to achieve the international targets of cutting deaths from TB and HIV-associated TB by half by 2015, compared to 1990 levels.”

This is positive news for World TB Day, and we can only hope that, despite the African region’s dismal health record, some real good will come of this initiative, thus keeping alive the dream of eradicating TB in the lifetime of this generation.

World Oceans Day

It’s World Oceans Day, our annual opportunity to honor the great oceans linking us all, to celebrate what the ocean provides humanity, and also to appreciate its intrinsic value.

World Ocean Day is a day for celebration, but also a day to start spreading the word on the importance of protecting the ocean for future generations
(© All Rights Reserved)

The theme for World Oceans Day 2012 is Youth: the Next Wave for Change, which firstly acknowledges the role the youth plays in the future of the ocean, and secondly reiterates the importance of everyone playing their part in securing the future of the world’s oceans for our youth.

One of the initiatives undertaken as part of this day is “Wear Blue, Tell Two“, an information sharing initiative where everyone is urged to dress in blue and to share with those around us two facts about the protection of the world’s oceans.

So, to do my bit (yes, I’m wearing blue jeans and a blue sweater, I promise!) herewith my two messages about our oceans:

1) The havoc caused by climate change
The ocean absorbs the majority of the heat added to the earth through climate change, resulting in a warmer ocean, which negatively impacts on the coral ecosystem and affects the life cycles of many fish species. This warmer water also decreases upwelling, which means that less nutrients reach the surface water, harming many marine ecosystems. Furthermore, the Poles are melting at an alarming rate, affecting polar marine environments and causing the ocean levels to rise, resulting in the loss of critical coastal habitats. It is also estimated that 10% of the global human population lives below 10m above sea level, which means about 700 million people are directly threatened by a significantly rising sea level. Not a pretty picture… And we haven’t even touched on the impact of the chemical changes in the oceans as a result of increased atmospheric greenhouse gases, or the changes in the ocean currents and the effects this is having on the earth’s climate.
(Source: Five Effects of Climate Change on the Ocean, http://www.conservation.org)

2) What we can do to help
Despite the doom and gloom of my first message, all is not irretrievably lost. Each of us can contribute our little bit to help the environment. By merely living more socially responsibly (recycling, reusing, limiting our carbon footprint) we can help slow global warming, which directly impacts on the wellbeing of our oceans. And there are numerous local and international initiatives we can get involved in. For example:

  • Conservation International runs an initiative called “Save a Mile” where you can make a donation to support initiatives focused on ocean conservation
  • The World Oceans Day website hosts the “Blue Planeteer” awareness drive, where you can volunteer to perform simple online tasks, such as tweeting about World Oceans Day or emailing a blog.

These are just two small online examples – if you live near the sea your local aquarium or nature centre may well have their own initiatives going, so ask around and get involved.

So spread the word on World Ocean Day – wear blue and tell two!