As I write this first post for 2020health, the county remains in paroxysms about the state of its politics. But while the Westminster boil continues to burst and we wonder how to lance it for good [in both senses] I thought it was time to look outwards again.
In the UK, 381 people have been affected by swine flu, a fraction of the 19,000 plus people affected worldwide including 117 deaths. In Gaza, the World Health Organization estimates that 5% to 10% of people may need professional support to address long-term mental health problems like depression, trauma and panic attacks after the violence of earlier in the year. In Pakistan, nearly 3m people are displaced including 500,000 children aged under 5 years and according to the UN agency UNFPA, 69,300 pregnant women, 6000 of whom are expected to deliver within the next month, many in squalid conditions.
Meanwhile in Cambodia, new evidence shows that malaria is becoming increasingly resistant to the artemisinin class of drugs which have been the first line of treatment. And today, as with every day, 40,000 children will die, most from preventable, basic conditions such as diarrhoea.
There is no doubt that massive strides have been made in public health over the years which has saved millions of lives. But two problems remain. Too few people have access to basic public health measures such as clean water and vaccinations. And their number is added to daily by the indirect victims of war, the displaced people they leave in their wake who are often suddenly left with no access to the services they had previously enjoyed.
There always will be the poor – both in health and in economy – but maybe part of the Westminster lesson for us all is to ask how much we are putting our own comfort ahead of seeking solutions for those whose health relies on our thoughtfulness and perhaps, our frugality?