Wasting away our health Frankly Speaking...
By A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
July 16, 2004

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Again I'm "toying" with my lead caption. So that I could have captured the two concepts and issue of waste and health.

In another professional mode, I'm associated with an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) - Mayor and City Council (MCC) of Georgetown Pilot Project on Public Education with respect to solid waste.

Initially, the two areas of our Dirty Garbage-City Capital chosen for implementation of the Awareness Campaign were Lodge and Regent Street.

As has been stated often over the past weeks, the primary objective of the intense psychological and practical exercise is to change, for the better, citizens' attitudes toward identifying, managing (or tending) and disposing of real waste.

Even before my eventual involvement in this now exciting but challenging public education project, I was always fascinated by two related issues: our usual long-lasting stagnation or procrastination in catching up with the good practices of other enlightened societies - like the simple procedure of sorting or separating our garbage so that, hopefully, our municipal authorities could dispose of it appropriately.

Secondly, I am still (happily) amazed that, notwithstanding our people's indifference to and general mismanagement of waste, especially in the stinking capital we don't experience more serious and more frequent outbreaks of certain diseases. This surprises me whenever I watch children of vendors outside markets, on pavements near to polluted drains - and, of course, when I witness sewage mixed with stagnant water caused by the slightest of floods in, say, Lodge or Leopold Street in our garbage capital.

But hold on! An interesting Video Documentary on Solid Waste problems in Georgetown - made for the Lodge/Regent Street Education project - reveals that our neglected garbage does generate disease: last year approximately 3760 cases of diarrhoea were diagnosed in Georgetown, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Filaria and fungal infections are just some of the illnesses that affect a large percentage of the citizens of Georgetown. As I've hinted, the issue of managing and tending what we decide is waste, has multiple and sometimes "complicated implications."

Such as, why couldn't municipal waste management experts anticipate what happens when consumption patterns and importation dictate packaging with plastics and Styrofoam? Are there regulations to influence the importation of new rubber tyres only? When we succeed in turning around citizens' minds to tending their waste more effectively, we must provide them with appropriate public waste disposal receptacles - as well as ideas about how to acquire suitable garbage bags and information on recycling and composting, to reduce and re-use waste.

You should have realised by now how varied and diverse are the aspects of managing the waste a community generates as I've mentioned, even though our people visit and spend extended periods in other peoples' societies, we take ever so long to adapt their better practices. Next time I touch on Solid Waste Management I'll discuss proper engineered landfills and municipal courts.

Substandard drugs,counterfeit medicines

One reaction to my introductory piece on generic, vis- -vis branded, pharmaceutical products published last week provoked a writer into strident tones.

Last Friday I introduced the issue of some generic drugs being easy to pass off as the more original, more long-lasting, full-strength and effective branded pharmaceutical product.

And my main concern is my suspicion, based on informed advice that in Guyana we have no real guarantees that there is any facility to monitor the breakdown of elements, the strengths of the active ingredients in some generic drugs which claim to be what they are - and what they can do.

You judge next week when I describe our facilities and personnel currently available. Your, our money and health are at stake. Today then, I share with you just six facts on the issue of counterfeit medicine in this unfair world of ours. The source is the World Health Organisation.

Substandard medicines are products whose composition and ingredients do not meet the correct scientific specifications and which are consequently ineffective and often dangerous to the patient.

Substandard products may occur as a result of negligence, human error, insufficient human and financial resources or counterfeiting.

Counterfeit medicines are part of the broader phenomenon of substandard pharmaceuticals.

The difference is that they are deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and for source.

Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and counterfeit medicine may include products with the correct ingredients but fake packaging, with the wrong ingredients, without active ingredients or with insufficient active ingredients.

In wealthier countries the most frequently counterfeited medicines are new, expensive lifestyle medicines, such as hormones, steroids and antihistamines. In developing countries the most counterfeited medicines are those used to treat life-threatening conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

At best, the regular use of substandard or counterfeit medicines leads to therapeutic failure or drug resistance; in many cases it can lead to death.

During the meningitis epidemic in Niger in 1995 over 50,000 people were inoculated with fake vaccines received as a gift from a country, which thought they were safe. The exercise resulted in 2,500 deaths.

The consumption of paracetamol cough syrup prepared with diethylene glycol (a toxic chemical-antifreeze) led to 89 deaths in Haiti in 1995 and 30 infant deaths in India in 1998.

Of the one million deaths that occur from malaria annually, as many as 200,000 would be avoidable) if the medicines available were effective, of good quality and used correctly.

I leave the above for you to ponder upon. I return to the local scenario in a week or two.

After I contemplate some other constructive criticisms. And vituperations too! (Am I indicting all generic manufacturers?)

Towards World Cup '07

It's me again and my (un)usual objective now that we're well and truly blessed with the World Cup Cricket Matches. But first, did you catch Barbadian Prime Minister Owen Arthur's pride over the choice of little Barbados as the virtual premier venue for 2007? (Reading about the exodus of our professionals, then reading Owen Arthur, my sense of disgust and loss, after 38 years of "Independence" just grows more profound.) Rubbing salt into my wounds was also the justifiable choice of another little rock of an island, St Lucia, because of its "ultra-modern Beausejour stadium."

However, we've gotten our just deserts so, in consonance with a Stabroek News advisory editorial, 'Now for the hard work', I ask that our planners do this: pretend that our World Cup/Stadium deadline is somewhere in the year 2006. Work towards that - without advising me about the weather, the time for "settling" or shortage of supplies.

And you representatives of African-Guyanese show me how you can organise and mobilise to get a fair share of the scores of jobs attendant upon that imminent international event. Are you up to the challenges? Don't complain. Organise! This World Cup Cake must be shared!

Check these....

1) If I'm told about quality generics being manufactured, is there an implication that there could be non- or poor-quality versions?

2) And did you hear, on television Wednesday morning, about the minuscule video camera in a capsule which, when swallowed, photographs every part of your guts? Now, every intrusion could be identified!

3) From diamonds to dolphins: We can't monitor our borders to prevent the loss of our diamonds, for example. Now I'm told that dolphins, which I was unaware, existed here, were being ferretted out for a long time.

4) What? The British assist the Salvation Army's Drug Rehab Centre in Georgetown, but not our Guyanese government?]

5) When does the Guyanese "winter" begin?

'Til Next Week!