Monday, November 15, 2010

Famine and Pestilence

It seems that recently, as soon as one of our signs starts to diminish a little, or slow down, the other signs increase or become newsworthy. Today is no different:

We're seeing the post-earthquake refugee/encampment situation continue to worsen the rapid spreading of disease in Haiti:

Haiti cholera death toll tops 900

The number of people in Haiti who have died from cholera has reached 917, the country's health ministry says.

The disease is present in six out of 10 provinces and 14,642 people have been hospitalised since the outbreak of the waterborne disease began last month.

Aid agencies are battling to contain cholera in the capital Port-au-Prince, amid fears it will spread through camps housing 1.1m earthquake survivors.

The UN is appealing for $164m (£101m) to treat the disease in the next year.

The death toll has risen by 121 since Friday.

And this story regarding a deadly fungus to the wheat crops:

Food: Mutant killer on the prowl

Wheat stem rust devastates cropsJohannesburg, - Just when scientists thought they had managed to curb a mutant fungus, Ug99, a variation of wheat stem rust, four new forms of the killer pathogen have surfaced in the last three years, posing a significant threat to the world's most consumed cereal.

The newest mutation, or race, of Ug99 was discovered in 2009 in South Africa; another was found in the wheat-growing belt of South Africa's Western Cape Province in 2007, said Zak Pretorius, professor of plant pathology at University of the Free State.

Wheat stem rust, also known as wheat black rust, can destroy entire fields and even whole crops. The pathogen enters the stems of the plant and destroys the vascular tissue.

The new mutations or "races" have acquired the ability to defeat two of the most important stem rust-resistant genes, used widely in most of the world's wheat breeding programmes. Singh said when the new race of Ug99 surfaced in Kenya, CIMMYT had to delay releasing new lines of wheat that had only one of the stem-rust resistant genes.

"An outbreak could have serious consequences, as we already depend on imports," Pretorius said. "The bigger threat is that of the spores spreading to neighbouring countries and continents, where small-scale farmers with limited resources grow wheat."

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