Cars MIght Soon Start Monitoring Drivers’ Vitals

Many car companies are looking at adding sensors to monitor your vital signs while you drive. The University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing, which is focused on digital health and innovation, brings together experts to look at the benefits and dangers of this next step in automotive design and technology. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details.


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Scientists Pool Oceans of Data to Plot Earth’s Final Frontier

For experts in the field of ocean mapping, it is no small irony that we know more about the surfaces of the moon and Mars than we do about our planet’s sea floor.

“Can you imagine operating on the land without a map, or doing anything without a map?” asked Larry Mayer, director of the U.S.-based Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, a research body that trains hydrographers and develops tools for mapping.

“We depend on having that knowledge of what’s around us, and the same is true for the ocean,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

With their deep craters and mountain ranges, the contours of the earth beneath the waves are both vast and largely unknown.

Seabed 2030

But a huge mapping effort is underway to change that. 

The U.N.-backed project, called Seabed 2030, is urging countries and companies to pool data to create a map of the entire ocean floor by 2030. The map will be freely available to all.

“We obviously need a lot of cooperation from different parties, individuals as well as private companies,” said Mao Hasebe, project coordinator at the Nippon Foundation, a Japanese philanthropic organization supporting the initiative. “We think it’s ambitious, but we don’t think it’s impossible,” Hasebe said.

The project, which launched in 2017, is expected to cost about $3 billion. It is a collaboration between the Nippon Foundation and GEBCO, a nonprofit association of experts that is already involved in charting the ocean floor.

The result would be greater knowledge of the oceans’ biodiversity, improved understanding of the climate, advanced warning of impending disasters, and the ability to better protect or exploit deep-sea resources, Hasebe said.

​Recent advances

So far, the biggest data contributors to Seabed 2030 have been companies, in particular Dutch energy prospector Fugro and deep-sea mapping firm Ocean Infinity. Both were involved in the search for the Malaysian airliner MH370, which disappeared in 2014.

To map the ocean floor, high-tech multibeam echosounders transmit a fan of acoustic beams from a ship, which ping back depending on the depth and topography of the ocean floor. That creates data points, which can be converted into a map.

“With advanced sonar technology, it really is like seeing. I think we’ve come out of the era of being the blind man with the stick,” said Robert Larter, a marine geophysicist at the British Antarctic Survey.

“We can survey much more efficiently, and, not only that, but in much greater detail,” he said, adding that the work was painstaking. “The ocean’s a big place!” he said.

The advent of new technology, such as underwater drones and robots, is also speeding up the mapping process.

A global competition hosted by energy giant Shell, the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, is also under way, offering $7 million to teams that can develop technologies to conduct ocean exploration autonomously, rapidly and to a high resolution.

A team from Seabed 2030 has reached the final stages of the competition with an idea based on remotely operated robots working in extreme depths to map territory independently.

Economic benefits

Exploring Earth’s final frontier will do more than satisfy scientific curiosity, it should bring economic benefits, too.

More than 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a U.N. body, making safe navigation a key motivator for mapping.

“If a ship runs aground it’s a terrible day for the economy, it’s a terrible day for the environment and it’s a bad day for the captain, too,” Mayer said.

Seabed 2030’s map would have other benefits, experts said: In a warming world, it would provide a better idea of sea levels as ice melts and, importantly, warn about impending tsunamis that could devastate coastal communities.

They said it would also help the so-called “blue economy” as countries and companies seek to protect or exploit deep-sea resources, from exploring for oil and gas to installing wind farms or laying fiber-optic cables for the internet.

That is predicted to become more important in the coming years, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It expects the ocean economy to contribute $3 trillion to the world economy by 2030, up from $1.5 trillion in 2010.

Political rifts

Some parts of the oceans — the East Coast of the United States, areas around Japan, New Zealand and Ireland — are relatively well-mapped, experts said. Others, including the West African coast or that off the Caribbean, remain largely blank.

The introduction of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international treaty, allowed countries to determine their continental shelves and exclusive economic zones, legitimate territorial claims off their coasts.

It also spurred a rush to map and claim land, Larter said.

“That’s the biggest land grab in recent history,” he said.

For Julian Barbiere of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, it would be a “paradox” if, after collaboration at a scientific and technical level to share data, countries used that knowledge against each other in geopolitical spats.

“There are already tensions in some parts of the world, and one of the reasons for that is access to resources,” he said.

Some countries, he added, are reluctant to give up strategic proprietary data to the Seabed 2030 project, largely because of national security concerns or in areas with sensitive geopolitical tensions, such as the South China Sea.

“There is already a lot of data, which is sitting there but it’s not being released. We hope to change attitudes and to really get countries to contribute,” Barbiere said.

The next phase of the project, he said, is to encourage data donors and crowdsourcing, not just from exploration vessels but from cargo ships, recreational sea-users and fishing boats.

“(It) goes back to this principle: the ocean is an international space by definition … part of the common heritage of mankind,” he said.

Looking ahead, in a bid to meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 14 — to conserve and sustainably use the oceans — mapping will take center stage during negotiations to be completed by 2020, as nations create a new, legally binding treaty to protect the high seas.

“There are so many benefits to knowing more about the ocean floor,” Hasebe said. “Humanity as a whole would be able to benefit.”


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Report: Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Set Record

Emissions of planet-warming gases will hit an all-time high this year, according to a new report.

The figures are the latest indication of how far the world is from meeting the goal set out in Paris in 2015 to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

The report comes as U.N. negotiators meet in Poland for the latest round of talks on confronting climate change.

Emissions are projected to rise 2.7 percent this year, according to three studies released Wednesday from the Global Carbon Project, an international scientific collaboration of academics, governments and industry that tracks greenhouse gas emissions. That follows a 1.6 percent rise last year. However, emissions were stable for the three years before that.

“Possibly, this year is unusual,” said lead author Corinne Le Quere at the University of East Anglia. But probably not, she added. “We think that emissions are probably still going to go up for some years unless things change drastically.”

“I’m not that surprised,” said Alex Trembath of the Breakthrough Institute research center, who was not involved in the research. “The world economy is growing, and the cheapest, most scalable easiest way to meet much of that growth still comes from incumbent fossil fuel technologies.”

Projected emissions from China, the world’s largest source of greenhouse gases, rose by 4.7 percent this year. Le Quere said a government effort to boost construction and stimulate the economy increased demand for emissions-intensive steel, aluminum and cement.

In the United States, coal continued to give way to cleaner natural gas. But a cold winter and a hot summer both raised energy demands, contributing to an estimated 2.5 percent increase in emissions.

Rising oil use for transportation also was a factor, as American consumers are once again buying bigger cars.

Emissions declined by 0.7 percent in the 28-nation European Union, though emissions from oil increased.

The transportation sector is the “biggest problem, I would say, worldwide,” Le Quere added. “We are really not making a dent in emissions from transport, in spite of the fact that the technology for electric cars is there.”

The good news is that renewable energy is growing by leaps and bounds. That should help take the edge off the emissions curve, even as growth picks up in another Asian giant — India.

“We’re not going to see what we saw in China in the early 2000s” when that country overtook, and then doubled, emissions of the previous leader, the United States, she said.

Trembath cautions, however, that Africa remains a question mark. “We see China- and India-like growth numbers, 5 to 10 percent annual GDP growth, coming from a lot of sub-Saharan African countries,” he said. “That could mean a lot more oil consumption, a lot more natural gas consumption.”

That’s not a bad thing on many levels, he added. “These are desperately poor countries that are just trying to achieve the same standard of living we enjoy in the United States.”


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Trump Weighs In on Climate Change

“I’m not going to put the country out of business trying to maintain certain standards that probably don’t matter,” President Donald Trump told VOA when asked about the economic impacts of climate change.

When not denying its existence, the Trump administration’s approach to

climate change essentially comes down to three arguments: the United States has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions more than other countries, regardless of any international agreement; regulations to cut emissions come with high costs and few benefits; and those regulations would put the United States at a disadvantage because other countries will not follow.

“When you look at China, and when you look at other countries where they have foul air,” Trump added, “we’re going to be clean, but they’re not, and it costs a lot of money.”

As U.N. climate negotiations get under way in Poland to work out rules for implementing the Paris climate agreement — from which Trump intends to withdraw the United States — experts weigh in on the administration’s claims.

Emissions cuts

It’s true that the United States has reduced its greenhouse gas production more than any other country. U.S. emissions peaked in 2005. In the last decade, they have fallen by about 13 percent, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

But the United States was the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases until 2006. And, others have made bigger cuts by percentage. Hungary’s levels, for example, decreased 14 percent.

U.S. emissions started to fall when the fracking boom took off.

The new technique of hydraulic fracturing turned the United States into a major natural gas producer. As the price of natural gas has dropped, it has been steadily replacing coal as the dominant fuel for electricity generation. Because burning natural gas produces far less carbon dioxide than coal, greenhouse gas emissions have decreased.

More recently, renewable sources such as solar and wind power have started to make inroads on the power grid.

While U.S. emissions have fallen since the 2000s, China’s have soared.

The country pursued astonishing economic growth with an enormous investment in coal-fired power plants. China is now the leading producer of greenhouse gases by far, roughly doubling U.S. output.

Cost-benefit

Trump has argued that regulations aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions would hobble the U.S. economy. He has moved to undo the Obama administration’s proposed rules on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and efficiency standards for vehicles and appliances, among others.

Critics question whether those regulations would cost as much Trump suggests.

“None of these policies were going to have dramatic increases in the prices that consumers would see,” Duke University public policy professor Billy Pizer said. He added that normal price swings would likely swamp the cost of the regulations Trump targets.

The emissions reductions the Obama administration pledged in Paris “were built largely on a continuation of the coal-to-gas transition and a continuation of growth in renewable energy that’s already happening,” said Alex Trembath of the Breakthrough Institute research center. As such, he added, they “don’t imply a large cost. In fact, they imply a marginal increased benefit to the U.S.”

Those benefits come, for example, because burning less coal produces less air pollution, which lowers health costs.

Not to mention the direct results of climate change: wildfires, floods, droughts and so on.

“We have enough science and enough economics to show that there are damages resulting from us releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. We know that that is not a free thing,” University of Chicago public policy professor Amir Jina said. “And yet, we are artificially setting it as free because we’re not paying the price of that externality.”

He said economists nearly unanimously support a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade program or some other way to put a price on carbon emissions.

Collective action

Few nations have taken the necessary steps to meet the emissions reduction pledges they made in Paris, according to the most recent United Nations emissions gap report.

Even those pledges would fall far short of the Paris goal of limiting global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the report adds. Reaching that target will take “unprecedented and urgent action.” A 2016 report said an additional $5.2 trillion investment in renewable energy will be necessary worldwide over the next 25 years.

Trump’s statement — “we’re going to be clean, but they’re not, and it costs a lot of money” — sums up why nations are reluctant to act: no one wants to take on burdens that they think others won’t.

“It’s the thing which has been dogging action on climate change for generations,” Jina said.

“We only really solve the problem if everybody acts together,” he added. “And if enough people are not acting, then we don’t.”

Paris depends on countries following through on increasingly ambitious emissions cuts.

Each country decides what it is willing to do. Every five years, countries come together and show their progress.

“You over time build confidence in each other,” Pizer said. “Ideally, you ratchet up the commitments as you see your actions reciprocated by other countries.”

Trump’s backpedaling on the U.S. commitment raises questions about the prospects.

However, the first of these check-ins is five years away. Trump can’t formally withdraw the United States from the agreement until 2020.

Pizer notes that the predecessor to the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, failed in part because it imposed caps on countries’ carbon emissions, and most of the world balked.

“In my mind, this is the best we can do,” he said. “If there were a different way to do it, I’d be all over that.”


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Gorillas, Given a Puzzle, Find Way to Cheat

Gorillas at a zoo in England have demonstrated a distinctly human trait while attempting to solve a puzzle: cheating. 

 

The gorillas were presented with a wall-mounted puzzle that requires the user to guide a peanut through a series of obstacles by poking a stick through various holes. Eventually, the peanut reaches the bottom of the device and drops out. 

Some gorillas, however, figured out an easier way to retrieve the nut. 

 

“We’ve seen a lot of cheating behavior where they’ve been putting their lips up against the device and sucking the nut out, which was not how we intended the device to be used. But it just shows you that they’re very flexible. They’re capable of creating new solving strategies to access the food,” Dr. Fay Clark from Bristol Zoo Gardens told Reuters. 

 

“They have some fascinating problem-solving abilities that have probably not been witnessed before,” she added. 

In addition, the endangered western lowland gorillas, which were introduced to a prototype device earlier this year, have shown that they quite like the game. They regularly returned to play with it, even when there were no more nuts to win, scientists said. 

 

Experts from the University of Bristol and Bristol Zoological Society developed the “Gorilla Game Lab” to encourage the gorillas’ cognitive and puzzle-solving abilities. The prototype device had to be strong enough to withstand a frustrated gorilla, which can be seven times stronger than humans. It also had to be engaging enough to keep them coming back for more. 

 

Each of the modules in the game “are removable, so we can take the modules out, redesign them and put in an additional module or change the actual structure. So it creates an endless stream of new and novel puzzles for them to solve,” said Dr. Stuart Gray of the University of Bristol. 

While the main aim of the project is to create a “positive psychological state of pleasure and satisfaction in the gorillas,” the researchers are already setting their sights on more advanced models that would help zookeepers better understand both the mental and physical conditions of the animals. 

 

“Things like eyesight, hearing, other cognitive functions — all of these could be measurable further on down the line,” Gray said. 


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Rich, Poor Struggle to Shoulder Losses From Devastating Storms

The devastation caused by powerful storms is a growing threat to both poor and rich nations, propelling Caribbean islands to the top of a global index of countries most severely affected by weather disasters last year, researchers said Tuesday. 

 

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was ranked as the hardest-hit, and the island of Dominica came in third place after both were battered by Hurricane Maria last September, according to an annual climate risk index from Germanwatch, an environmental policy group. 

 

The United States ranked 12th in the 2017 index, with 389 fatalities and nearly $175 billion in losses from extreme weather. 

 

“Recent storms with intensity levels never seen before have had disastrous impacts,” said the index’s lead author, David Eckstein. 

 

Such weather disasters are likely to worsen further in coming years, the U.N. humanitarian agency warned Tuesday, creating significant new humanitarian needs. 

 

Floods, storms and droughts all are expected to strengthen, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its Global Humanitarian Overview 2019 report. 

 

It cited World Bank data predicting 140 million people could be internally displaced by 2050 as a result of global warming. 

 

Among the countries being significantly hit by climate-linked extreme weather is the United States, whose President Donald Trump is one of the most prominent skeptics of man-made climate change, the agency said.  

Hurricanes and storms in the United States and Caribbean caused more than $220 billion worth of damage last year, representing nearly two-thirds of global losses caused by natural disasters in 2017, OCHA said. 

 

“Climate events are contributing to greater humanitarian problems than we have seen in the past,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for OCHA. “This is something the world has not yet adapted fully to.” 

 

As hurricanes and tropical cyclones intensify in strength, they are particularly hurting poor nations that are unprepared for the threat, researchers said on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Poland. 

 

In the tiny island country of Dominica, Maria caused losses equal to more than twice its gross domestic product, damaging or destroying about 90 percent of housing.  

 

Lloyd Pascal, a Dominican climate negotiator whose home has yet to be fully repaired after being hit by the storm, urged the U.N. talks to pay more attention to “weaker countries.” 

 

Dominica, with 72,000 people, lacks the ability to prepare for the increasingly severe weather it is suffering, he said. 

 

Even though storm warnings are received, the state does not have resources to evacuate people into shelters, he said, nor understand clearly how heavy rainfall will boost river levels. 

 

“We are just not prepared to do that kind of work,” he told reporters. “We are like sitting ducks.” 

 

But rich countries, including the United States, also are seeing clearer climate impacts, and need to step up efforts to keep their people safe, Germanwatch said. 

 

“Effective climate protection, as well as increasing resilience, is … in the self-interest of these countries,” Eckstein said. 

 

The Germanwatch index highlighted other types of weather-related damage as well, from unusually heavy rainfall to landslides.  

Sri Lanka, the second most-affected country in 2017, saw dramatic floods that year that killed 200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. 

 

The U.N. climate negotiations should drum up more support for the poorest countries like Nepal, Vietnam, Sierra Leone and Madagascar to deal with rising losses linked to climate change, Germanwatch said. 

 

All four of those countries figured in the index’s top 10 of nations most affected by weather disasters in 2017. 

 

“They need predictable and reliable financial support for dealing with climate-induced loss and damage,” Eckstein said. 

 

Five years ago, the U.N. climate talks set up a mechanism to better understand the damage that now will be unavoidable as a result of the 1 degree Celsius hike in global temperatures that has already occurred. 

 

The mechanism also seeks to find ways to deal with the consequences as the world warms further. 

 

But industrialized countries — which have historically emitted the most climate-changing emissions — have refused to pay compensation to those who are less to blame for global warming yet find themselves on the front line of impacts. 

 

Instead, they are providing access to insurance. 

 

At the Dec. 2-14 talks in Poland, arguments are expected over how progress on dealing with “loss and damage” should be assessed in 2023, when countries measure their climate action against the goals of the Paris climate accord. 


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World’s First Baby Born Via Womb Transplant From Dead Donor

A woman in Brazil who received a womb transplanted from a deceased donor has given birth to a baby girl in the first successful case of its kind, doctors reported.

The case, published in The Lancet medical journal, involved connecting veins from the donor uterus with the recipient’s veins, as well as linking arteries, ligaments and vaginal canals.

It comes after 10 previously known cases of uterus transplants from deceased donors – in the United States, the Czech Republic and Turkey – failed to produce a live birth.

The girl born in the Brazilian case was delivered via caesarean section at 35 weeks and three days, and weighed 2,550 grams (nearly 6 lbs), the case study said.

Dani Ejzenberg, a doctor at Brazil’s Sao Paulo University hospital who led the research, said the transplant – carried out in September 2016 when the recipient was 32 – shows the technique is feasible and could offer women with uterine infertility access to a larger pool of potential donors.

The current norm for receiving a womb transplant is that the organ would come from a live family member willing to donate it.

“The numbers of people willing and committed to donate organs upon their own deaths are far larger than those of live donors, offering a much wider potential donor population,” Ejzenberg said in a statement about the results.

She added, however, that the outcomes and effects of womb donations from live and deceased donors have yet to be compared, and said the technique could still be refined and optimised.

The first baby born after a live donor womb transplant was in Sweden in 2013. Scientists have so far reported a total of 39 procedures of this kind, resulting in 11 live births.

Experts estimate that infertility affects around 10 to 15 percent of couples of reproductive age worldwide. Of this group, around one in 500 women have uterine problems.

Before uterus transplants became possible, the only options to have a child were adoption or surrogacy.

In the Brazilian case, the recipient had been born without a uterus due to a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome. The donor was 45 and died of a stroke.

Five months after the transplant, Ejzenberg’s team wrote, the uterus showed no signs of rejection, ultrasound scans were normal, and the recipient was having regular menstruation. The woman’s previously fertilized and frozen eggs were implanted after seven months and 10 days later she was confirmed pregnant.

At seven months and 20 days – when the case study report was submitted to The Lancet – the baby girl was continuing to breastfeed and weighed 7.2 kg (16 lb).


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UN Chief Calls for Momentum at 2019 Climate Summit

The U.N. secretary-general on Tuesday urged world leaders to use a climate change summit he will host in 2019 to explain how they plan to ratchet up their efforts to reverse worsening global warming that is leading to a “very dramatic situation.”

Antonio Guterres said the gathering at the United Nations in New York in September would be an “essential piece” in raising ambition to cut heat-trapping emissions, and helping countries cope better with wilder weather and rising seas.

The summit also will seek to raise more funding to ensure wealthy governments keep a 2020 promise to deliver $100 billion annually to help poor countries develop cleanly and adapt to a hotter planet, the U.N. chief added.

“We all know the massive scale of the climate challenge we face,” he told reporters at climate talks in Poland. “And we all know we are not on track.”

In 2020, countries are due to submit to the United Nations updated national climate action plans that are the lynchpin of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015.

Under that accord, nearly 200 governments have committed to limit the rise in global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

There has already been an increase of about 1 degree C, and current pledges to reduce emissions are still likely to lead to warming of about 3 degrees C this century, scientists have said. In the coming year, U.N. agencies will work with governments to strengthen their climate action plans covering the decade to 2030, as well as their long-term strategies, Guterres said.

Climate experts said on Tuesday they expected countries to issue a political declaration at the end of the December 2-14 climate talks in Katowice that would firmly signal their intention to do more to cut emissions from 2020.

They should then “sharpen their pencils” and consult with government authorities, businesses and civil society back home to work out how to achieve that, said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The world has seen “a technology revolution since Paris,” he said, with renewable energy generation and storage now far cheaper — something countries must make the most of in revising their 2020 plans to cut emissions.

In Katowice, government officials are hammering out rules on how to measure and track emissions reductions under the Paris deal, seeking a formula to achieve widespread and ambitious cuts that is fair to countries with fewer resources.

There are also complex discussions on how rich states should track the funding they have provided and indicate the amount they will contribute in future years — a touchy subject with some governments reluctant to make promises.

Guterres said a central objective of his 2019 summit would be to provide a “transparent approach” to delivering $100 billion to vulnerable countries each year from 2020-2025, when a new target is due to kick in.

He urged donors to replenish the coffers of the flagship Green Climate Fund by the time of the summit, a process the fund’s board has said it aims to complete by October 2019.

The summit, designed to spur political commitment to action, will also involve different groups tackling climate change, from cities and companies to young people, the U.N. said in a briefing note.

The summit aims to win promises for on-the-ground change in polluting industries from oil to cement, and target how supply chains and technology can cut emissions and waste, particularly from farming and food systems.

It also wants cities to make new commitments on low-emission buildings, mass transport and green urban infrastructure, as well as protection for poor communities such as slum dwellers.

“The summit is not an end in itself,” Guterres said. “It is … a tool to leverage unprecedented ambition, transformation and mobilization.”


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Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak Hits Women Especially Hard

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the throes of its worst-ever Ebola outbreak, with more than 420 cases in the country’s volatile east, and a mortality rate of just under 60 percent. But this outbreak — the nation’s tenth known Ebola epidemic — is unusual because more than 60 percent of patients are women.

Among them is Baby Benedicte. Her short life has already been unimaginably difficult.

At one month old, she is underweight, at 2.9 kilograms. And she is alone. Her mother had Ebola, and died giving birth to her. She’s spent the last three weeks of her life in a plastic isolation cube, cut off from most human contact. She developed a fever at eight days old and was transferred to this hospital in Beni, a town of some half-million people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 400 people have been diagnosed with Ebola here since the beginning of August, and more than half of them have died in a nation the size of Western Europe that struggles with insecurity and a lack of the most basic infrastructure and services. That makes this the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, after the hemorrhagic fever killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

This is 10th outbreak to strike the vast country since 1976, when Ebola was first identified in Congo. And this particular outbreak is further complicated by a simmering civil conflict that has plagued this region for more than two decades.

Guido Cornale, UNICEF’s coordinator in the region, says the scope of this outbreak is clear.

“It has become the worst outbreak in Congo, this is not a mystery,” he said.

What is mysterious, however, is the demographics of this outbreak. This time, more than 60 percent of cases are women, says the government’s regional health coordinator, Ndjoloko Tambwe Bathe.

“All the analyses show that this epidemic is feminized. Figures like this are alarming. It’s true that the female cases are more numerous than the male cases,” he said.

Bathe declined to predict when the outbreak might end, though international officials have said it may last another six months. Epidemiologists are still studying why this epidemic is so skewed toward women and children, Cornale said.

“So now we can only guess. And one of the guesses is that woman are the caretakers of sick people at home. So if a family member got sick, who is taking care of him or her? Normally, a woman,” he said.

Or a nurse. Many of those affected are health workers, who are on the front line of battling this epidemic. Nurse Guilaine Mulindwa Masika, spent 16 days in care after a patient transmitted the virus to her. She says it was the fight of her life.

“The pain was enormous, the pain was constant,” she said. “The headache, the diarrhea, the vomiting, and the weakness — it was very, very bad.”

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely. Masika and her cured colleagues face weeks of leave from work to ensure the risk of infection is gone. In the main hospital in the city of Beni, families who have recovered live together in a large white tent, kept four meters from human contact by a bright orange plastic cordon. They yell hello at their caretakers, who must don protective gear if they want to get any closer.

And for Baby Benedicte, who is tended to constantly by a nurse covered head to toe in protective gear, the future is uncertain. Medical workers aren’t entirely sure where her father is, or if he is going to come for her.

She sleeps most of the day, the nurse says, untroubled by the goings-on around her. Meanwhile, the death toll rises.

 

 

 

 


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Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak Hits Women Especially Hard

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the throes of its worst-ever Ebola outbreak, with more than 420 cases in the country’s volatile east, and a mortality rate of just under 60 percent. But this outbreak — the nation’s tenth known Ebola epidemic — is unusual because more than 60 percent of patients are women. VOA’s Anita Powell visited the two Ebola hotspots, and brings us this report from the town of Beni.


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