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COVID-19 cases increase in Afghanistan: officials

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2022)

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said on Sunday that COVID-19 infections have increased across Afghanistan.

According to the MoPH, 429 COVID-19 cases were reported in the past 24 hours in the country.

MoPH officials raised concerns and said that the Afghan health sector is not able to detect the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Positive cases of COVID-19 surged recently. Symptoms of the cases [show] they are likely the new variant; we don’t know [whether it is Omicron or not], because we don’t have [test] kits. Compatriots should be careful,” said Dr Javed Hazher, spokesman for the MoPH.

Employees of the Afghan-Japan hospital which is allocated to treat Coronavirus patients said that they have not received their salaries for many months.

“Most of the cases are Omicron… We don’t have machines to detect Omicron cases, we also don’t have necessary kits,” said Hashmat Faizi, one hospital official.

Afghan patients and their relatives meanwhile are concerned about the lack of drugs and medical equipment in hospitals.

“Our patient had [Coronavirus] symptoms, we transferred him here. It is not clear yet whether he is infected by Coronavirus or not,” said Nasar, a relative of one patient.

“Our patient had been admitted here for a long time. We don’t have a good place to stay here, our problems should be reduced,” said Namat Gull, another relative.

Despite the increase in COVID cases across Afghanistan, people continue to ignore advice to wear face masks in public nor do they stick to social distancing regulations.

Advertisements in the media about measures to take to avoid contracting the virus have also stopped.

Health

Malawi cholera outbreak death toll rises above 1,000

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

Malawi’s cholera outbreak has claimed more than 1,000 lives, according to the country’s health minister, who warned that some cultural beliefs and hostility toward health workers were slowing efforts to curb infections, AP reported.

Cholera had killed 1,002 people as of Tuesday, while 1,115 people were hospitalized from the outbreak that started in March 2022, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said. It’s the country’s worst outbreak of the waterborne illness in two decades.

The country of 20 million people recorded 12 deaths from 626 new cases in 24 hours, she said.

Frustration and suspicion over the rising cases resulted in weekend violence. Angry villagers beat up health workers and damaged a facility at the Nandumbo Health Centre in the Southern Region’s Balaka district.

Residents accused health workers of denying them an opportunity to conduct dignified burials. They forced some health workers to vacate the facility, stoned a cholera isolation ward and forced the discharge of 22 cholera patients.

Esnath Suwedi, vice-chairperson of the Nandumbo area’s development committee, a traditional local authority, said people thought the health workers were acting “mysteriously.”

Suwedi said residents alleged the workers were using contaminated syringes to inject people. The Balaka district is one of the worst affected areas, recording 46 deaths from 1,450 cases in the outbreak.

Cultural burial rites are also becoming a source of contention, Chiponda, the health minister, said during a daily briefing Tuesday.

“For example, people who are dying of or who have died from cholera may be washed by family members, who then prepare funeral feasts for family and friends held very soon after death. Outbreaks of cholera commonly follow these feasts,” the minister said.

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Bill Gates warns countries around the world need to prepare for next pandemic

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(Last Updated On: January 25, 2023)

Bill Gates has a clear message for the world: get ready for the next pandemic.

The Microsoft co-founder told the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney that politicians need to be able to set aside their differences in order to prepare for the next major virus.

But, despite his warnings, Gates praised Australia’s policies that kept the coronavirus from spreading while the world waited for a vaccine.

“Some of the things that stand out are that Australia and about seven other countries did population-scale diagnostics early on and had quarantine policies…that meant you kept the level of infection low in that first year when there were no vaccines,” he tech billionaire turned philanthropist said.

“The one thing that still hangs in the balance is will we have the global capacity and at the regional and country levels that would mean that when an [infectious disease] threat comes up we act in such a way that it doesn’t go global.”

He then went on to stress that leaders need to be revisiting their pandemic policies every few years to ensure they are as prepared as possible in the event of a mass-scale virus, infection, or disease.

“We need to be doing every five years a comprehensive exercise at both country and regional levels of pandemic preparedness and you need a global group that’s scoring everybody,” he said.

He likened the exercise to workplace fire drills to ensure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.

“That’s definitely a best practice in the future,” Gates said.

Speaking of America, Gates slammed Donald Trump’s Covid-19 policies in the US during his tenure as President, stating that America’s failure to quarantine en masse and scale up diagnostics for the virus was precisely why the nation recorded a staggering 1.1 million deaths.

Gates is currently visiting Australia with members of his Breakthrough Energy company.

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Polio vaccination campaign targets 5.3 million Afghan children in 16 provinces

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2023)

The Ministry of Public Health of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), said Sunday the first round of this year’s polio vaccination campaign is being rolled out in 16 provinces of Afghanistan and aims to inoculate 5.3 million children.

Dr. Sharafat Zaman Amar, the spokesperson of the ministry, in a message to the media, said that in this round of the campaign, 5.3 million children under the age of five will be vaccinated in 178 districts in the eastern, southern, southeastern and western parts of Afghanistan, including Kabul.

Zaman added that this campaign will start on Monday, January 23 and will continue for four days.

“In 2022, only two positive cases of polio were reported in Paktika and Kunar provinces, which shows a significant decrease compared to 56 cases in 2020 and four cases in 2021,” Zaman said.

Meanwhile, Qalandar Ebad, Minister of Public Health, added: “Afghanistan is closer to eradicating polio than ever before. We hope that by the end of 2023, with the successful implementation of the planned polio vaccination campaigns, we will see zero cases of polio in Afghanistan.”

Ebad asked parents, religious scholars and tribal elders to cooperate with vaccinators throughout the country to implement the polio vaccine.

This campaign will be carried out by the Ministry of Public Health with the financial cooperation of the World Health Organization (WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in parts of Afghanistan.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, during the last year, nine rounds of nationwide and sub-regional polio vaccine implementation campaigns were launched in Afghanistan, which had a good result in controlling the circulation of the polio virus.

This comes after the World Health Organization announced the ongoing efforts to eradicate polio in Afghanistan and said that overcoming polio in this country would be a global victory.

According to this organization, as long as polio exists in one place, this disease will remain a threat everywhere.

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