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Health ministry launches polio vaccination campaign

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(Last Updated On: March 13, 2023)

The Ministry of Public Health of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in collaboration with international partners, launched its first national polio vaccination campaign for 2023 on Monday.

According to a statement issued by the ministry, “the first National Immunization Days (NIDs) for polio eradication for 2023” aims to vaccinate more than 9.4 million children under the age of five against polio.

Vitamin A will also be administered to all children from 6-59 months of age to improve their immunity, the ministry said.

“The leadership of the Ministry of Public Health is strongly committed to eradicating polio from Afghanistan,” said Dr. Qalandar Ebad, the Minister of Public Health.

“The recent progress made in this regard is encouraging. Right now Afghanistan is much closer to polio eradication. Together we can eradicate polio from Afghanistan,” he said.

“The support of all Afghans, including parents, community leaders, ethnic elders, and religious leaders, is critical to eradicate polio and we want them to take part in the fight against polio to save Afghan children from permanent paralysis,” Ebad added.

Poliovirus infection can cause permanent paralysis or even death in affected children.

This year, to date, no polio cases have been reported in Afghanistan. Last year, there were two cases – one in Paktika and one in Kunar.

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Nuristan gets new clinic thanks to Swedish Committee and UN

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(Last Updated On: March 24, 2023)

Local officials say the construction of Malil and Mashfi Basic Healthcare Center in Nurgram district of Nuristan province is complete and the clinic is now operational.

According to officials, the healthcare center was built at a cost of 21 million afghanis with the help of the Swedish Committee and the United Nations.

Ghulam Yahya, the head of the Swedish Committee in the East Zone, said this hospital provides healthcare facilities for 32,000 people.

Naqibullah Noori, the head of public health in Nuristan, welcomed the establishment of the new hospital, and said that a lot of work has been done in the healthcare sector in the province recently and that the department had been able to improve services substantially.

“The condition of the health system in this province has improved by fifty percent,” said Noori.

The residents of Nurgram district, who had limited access to healthcare in the province in the past, have also welcomed the initiative.

“We are grateful to the Swedish Committee and UNDP for doing this basic work for us,” said a Nuristan resident.

According to the Public Health Department of Nuristan, the Swedish Committee has also established at least 37 clinics in various districts across the province.

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80 Afghan children to get medical treatment in Germany: ARCS

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(Last Updated On: March 21, 2023)

The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) in cooperation with Germany’s Peace Village plans to take 80 Afghan children to Germany for medical treatment on Thursday.

These children are suffering from bone diseases and severe burns, according to ARCS

Eighty children will be sent to Germany, fifty-five of them for bone disease treatment and the remaining 25 have severe burns, said Irfanullah Sharafzoi, a spokesperson for ARCS.

Sharafzoi also stated that of the 90 children sent for treatment six months ago, 50 of them will return to the country on Wednesday and the rest will come home once they have recovered.

“Fifty of the children who were sent to Germany in the past year will return to the country tomorrow, and 40 of them will be returned to the country after completing their treatment in Germany,” he said.

Habib Hassan, the head of ARCS’ foreign relations said each selection phase takes place every six months and almost 1,000 children are assessed at a time by ARCS.

“So far, [over the years] 4,854 children have been treated through this process,” Hassan said.

Children eligible for treatment have to be between the ages of one and 11 and girls and boys are treated. They have their medical expenses paid by the German Peace Village Charity Foundation.

The foundation has been working in cooperation with ARCS for over 30 years in Afghanistan to facilitate the treatment of children. Wednesday’s group of children will be the 89th group to be sent to Germany.

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New evidence shows origin of COVID could have been raccoon dogs

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(Last Updated On: March 18, 2023)

Scientists have uncovered new genetic evidence from the market in Wuhan, China, where COVID cases were first detected in late 2019.

Scientific America reports the findings add support to an animal origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.

These findings were presented to an advisory group convened by the World Health Organization earlier this week.

Florence Débarre, an evolutionary biologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research discovered genetic sequences of the virus that researchers in China – led by George Gao, former head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention – had uploaded to a public genomic database called GISAID.

According to Scientific America, the sequences were subsequently taken down but not before several other researchers from different countries downloaded and analyzed them.

Samples containing viral RNA, which had been collected at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in early 2020, also contained genetic material from raccoon dogs – a foxlike animal sold at the market – as well as other animals.

The virus sparked a global pandemic that has killed nearly seven million people, and debate has raged over whether it was caused by a natural spillover from wildlife to humans or a lab leak from a facility studying coronaviruses in Wuhan.

The new evidence does not directly prove that COVID jumped into humans from infected raccoon dogs, but it adds to a growing body of evidence in favor of a spillover from animals, Scientific America reported.

“These data do not provide a definitive answer to the question of how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important in moving us closer to that answer,” said the World Health Organization’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a news briefing on Friday.

The scientists who are analyzing the data are currently preparing a report on their findings, which they hope to release in the coming days.

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