This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It Will Take Time to Put Nepal Back Together

The massive earthquake in Nepal is now known to have killed more than 7,500 people and injured thousands more, but the threat of more disease and death is very real. As BBC News has reported (and the whole world has been concerned about) cholera is a huge problem.
A lack of shelter, contaminated water and poor sanitation could lead to cholera, dysentery and other water-borne diseases, the charities said. The UK's Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said in some areas people were living and defecating in the open. The umbrella organisation, formed of 12 charities, said immediate action was needed to tackle the problem.
The scale and cost of this aspect of the response are still being assessed but it was clear action was needed now before the rainy season starts in June, a spokesman said. "Cholera is endemic in Nepal, so an outbreak would not be unprecedented; last year 600 people caught cholera and in 2009 a major outbreak affected more than 300,000 people," he added.
Cholera is always a possibility in situations where a clean reliable water supply is not available. But when cholera is already present, the threat is very real. You may recall that after the earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, cholera was brought into country by peacekeepers from....(wait for it)...Nepal.

1 comment:

  1. Prof. Weeks ... INDEED! The first thought that popped into my head when you mentioned the cholera risk in Nepal - was the situation in Haiti after their quake. And as you know well, those refugees in Haiti remained in sub-standard camps for years. In fact, Haiti probably still has people living in those grimy conditions.

    The situation in Kathmandu is troubling because experts KNEW it was coming. They did not know the exact timing of the earthquake. But the quake risk was well known, and the U.N. had warned the Nepalese authorities many times about potential loss of life due to inadequate building standards. So the city was a "disaster waiting to happen". Unfortunately, in a third world situation it's pretty much impossible to control how people are building their houses. Low-income residents just use whatever is available ... there is nothing else that they can do. Now the Nepal Quake has unfolded, and the consequences are dire and long-term for the affected residents.

    I do not want this to sound like a "put-down" of Nepal. We in the Western world are just as vulnerable. Los Angeles is well overdue for a major shake on the San Andreas. The Big One will do a LOT of damage, and probably will cause significant loss of life. People in L.A. are woefully unprepared for this major event. Oregon and Washington are also well overdue for a major quake (Cascadia Fault, magnitude 8-9) and a tidal wave. The expected loss of life could easily be 5,000-20,000 people.

    As I said earlier -- its demographics. Your specialty. We are living on a crowded planet and there are too many people in the high-risk zones. Computer projections show casualty figures from these disasters in the 21'st century will grow exponentially. Sadly, our ability to RESPOND to those needs is lagging far behind.

    Pete Pollock, Redondo Beach, CA