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Cut in foreign aid proving a challenge for Afghan health sector

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Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health said 90 percent of foreign aid to the health sector has been cut, which has resulted in serious challenges.

Addressing a press conference on Saturday in Kabul, Abdul Bari Omar, the deputy minister of health, said that despite the challenges, health centers are open across the country.

“They (foreign organizations) skip all their commitments, a crisis was created here. If it was to happen under the former government, they (former government) would also have faced such a crisis,” said Omar.

This comes as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly across the world. However, the health ministry said they want to curb the spread of the virus.

“It (new variant of COVID-19) has arrived in Pakistan; we call on international organizations to help us curb the spread of the virus. We are ready and have COVID-19 medicine,” added Omar.

Omar also noted that under the old government, 3.5 million people turned to drugs and became addicted.

Afghans meanwhile say services in government-run hospitals are bad.

“It (services) is not good, it is worse,” said Yousef, a relative of a patient currently in hospital.

“Doctors are trying [to save lives of patients]. We buy drugs at the bazaar. Our patient’s situation is not good,” said Jafar, another relative of a patient.

This comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned last month that unless help is provided, the Afghanistan health sector could collapse.

According to WHO, Afghan health centers face a critical shortage of medicines and medical supplies.

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Congo fever cases rise 38% in last two months in Afghanistan

The Public Health Ministry’s spokesman said in the first five months of this year, 203 positive cases of Congo fever and six deaths were recorded across the country

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On the eve of Eid al-Adha, the Ministry of Public Health has announced that cases of Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever have increased by 38 percent in the last two months across the country.

The Ministry of Public Health said that last year there were about 244 positive cases of Congo fever, of which about 100 patients died.

Sharaf Zaman, the spokesperson of Public Health Ministry, added that in the first five months of this year, 203 positive cases of Congo fever and six deaths were recorded throughout Afghanistan.

According to him, Congo fever cases have increased by 38% in the last two months.

“It is very important to allow at least fifteen minutes for the blood to drain completely after slaughtering the animals on Eid days”

Congo fever is carried by domestic animals and can be transmitted by ticks. It is found in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. Symptoms include headaches, back pain, vomiting, severe bruising and nosebleeds.

“It is very important to allow at least fifteen minutes for the blood to drain completely after slaughtering the animals on Eid days. Then cover the blood on the ground with soil or wash it with soap, powder or only water. After skinning the animal, the skin should be put in a plastic bag immediately,” said Faridullah Omari, a medic.

According to medics, to prevent the spread of Congo fever, infected people should be quarantined and they should avoid contact with healthy people.

 

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24 mothers, 167 infants die in Afghanistan each day, WHO reports

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Afghanistan faces a staggering daily toll of 24 maternal deaths and 167 infant deaths due to preventable causes, according to a new report released Sunday by the World Health Organization.

The report underscores the continuing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, highlighting the multifaceted challenges that citizens endure daily.

“Afghan citizens face an unstable health system and the daily specter of food scarcity and malnutrition,” the WHO states. This crisis is further exacerbated by the burden of both communicable and noncommunicable diseases, frequent disease outbreaks, severe drought, and natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, the report stated.

The situation for Afghan women has particularly deteriorated, with limited access to education and livelihoods, WHO said.

The WHO report emphasizes that the need for humanitarian assistance has surged dramatically, adding that children and women bear the brunt of the health emergency.

“Preventable maternal mortality claims the lives of 24 mothers every day, and a staggering 167 infants die each day of preventable causes,” the WHO report highlights.

In addition, Afghanistan’s high level of food insecurity affects 15.8 million people, WHO stated.

Polio also remains a concern, although there have been significant gains in its eradication since 2021, the report noted.

The ongoing geopolitical situation has also affected the health sector, leading to reduced international support. “The health sector is struggling to meet the surging demand for services,” the WHO report states. Severe underfunding led to the closure of 428 static and mobile health facilities between January and December 2023, impacting over 3 million individuals, including more than 600,000 children under five and over 240,000 pregnant and lactating women.

However, the Ministry of Public Health’s spokesman Sharafat Zaman says the report cites incorrect data. He said 300 mother have lost their lives while giving birth in the past six months.

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Polio vaccination campaign gets underway in Afghanistan

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The Ministry of Public Health, in cooperation with the relevant international organizations, on Monday launched the second nationwide campaign of polio vaccination for the year 2024.

The campaign will run throughout the country from June 3 to June 6. The aim of the campaign is to vaccinate more than 11.2 million children under the age of five against the polio virus.

“The Ministry of Public Health is committed to stop the wild polio virus in Afghanistan with the cooperation of its partners. We will continue polio vaccination campaigns and health services to reach the goal of completely eradicating polio throughout the country,” Acting Minister of Public Health Noor Jalal Jalali said at a ceremony to launch the campaign.

“It is important for religious scholars, elders, parents and influential people in the society to support the vaccinators throughout the country so that they participate in the fight against polio and keep their children healthy,” Jalali said.

There is no cure for polio; it can only be prevented by immunization. The polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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