A nationwide polio vaccination campaign was launched in all provinces of the country on Monday, public health ministry officials said.
The campaign will run for four days and 9.9 million children under the age of five are expected to be vaccinated against the wild polio virus, the ministry said.
This comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week that since August 2021, more than 86.7 million doses of polio vaccine have been administered to Afghan children.
The organization said on Wednesday that more than nine million children received this number of vaccines during eight vaccination campaigns across Afghanistan.
“Ending polio in Afghanistan brings us closer to a polio-free world. We won’t stop until it’s done,” WHO tweeted.
The World Health Organization has emphasized that since the beginning of this year, only one case of polio has been recorded in the country.
Uganda confirms at least 1 case of Ebola hemorrhagic fever
Ugandan health authorities on Tuesday reported that a man who died a day earlier had tested positive for the virus that causes Ebola.
They said it’s still unknown how the man became infected with Ebola. He lived in the central Ugandan district of Mubende, about 150 kilometers west of the capital, Kampala, AP reported.
“We are right now gathering more information on the possible source of infection,” said the statement from the Ministry of Health, which referred to a potential new outbreak because six other people in the same area — including three children — died earlier in September after suffering what local officials had called a strange illness.
The confirmed Ebola victim was initially treated for other illnesses, including malaria and pneumonia, when he sought care in his hometown, the statement said.
Ebola, which is spread by contact with bodily fluids of an infected person or contaminated materials, manifests as a deadly hemorrhagic fever. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding.
Uganda has had multiple Ebola outbreaks, including one in 2000 that killed hundreds.
Last month authorities in Congo said a new case of the Ebola virus in the eastern city of Beni was linked to a previous outbreak.
Congo’s 10th outbreak of Ebola in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri killed more than 2,000 people from 2018 to 2020. During that time, neighboring Uganda reported some cases that authorities said were linked to the outbreak in Congo.
Donation from Catalan Agency boosts WFP’s efforts to fight malnutrition
The European Union’s Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD) has contributed EUR 290,000 to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) fund for acutely malnourished children and mothers across Afghanistan.
Thanks to this funding, more than 8,000 malnourished women and children in the areas of highest need will be supported with specialized nutritious foods for treatment of malnutrition by the end of the year, WFP reported.
“We are seeing the highest levels of moderate acute malnutrition ever recorded in Afghanistan. Today, 3.9 million children and 800,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP Representative and Country Director.
After one year of unprecedented economic hardship and environmental disasters like earthquakes and flooding, vulnerable families across the country have lost their livelihoods and largely exhausted their means to feed themselves.
Nearly 19 million people do not know where their next meal will come from and 6 million of them are facing Emergency levels of hunger and only one step away from famine.
“The record malnutrition rates we are seeing in Afghanistan go hand in hand with unprecedented levels of hunger. Life for most Afghans continues to be unbearably hard, particularly for women and girls,” said McGroarty.
“We thank Catalonia for this generous contribution that expresses solidarity and strong commitment to life-saving nutrition treatment for the women and children of Afghanistan,” she added.
Malnutrition in pregnancy can lead to many risks and complications, including stillbirths, low birthweights, and developmental delays. It can also become a cyclical pattern through generations, as problems at birth due to lack of essential nutrients can lead to lifelong consequences.
Between January and June 2022, WFP’s nutritional programmes reached over 690,000 malnourished children and over 435,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women. WFP aims to reach more than 1 million children under the age of five and more than 500,000 pregnant and nursing women by the end of the year.
Hundreds of women died in childbirth in past year: health ministry
Nearly 600 mothers died while giving birth in the past year, the Ministry of Public Health said on Wednesday, adding however that the maternal mortality rate was lower than the previous year.
Health Minister Qalandar Ebad said one million births took place over the past year, of which 584 births involved the death of the mothers.
He said that a large maternity institute will be established in a bid to lessen the mortality rate.
Currently, there are only two maternity hospitals in Kabul.
“I have come to this hospital from a private hospital and doctors have helped me well,” said Khori Gul, a patient at Rabia Balkhi Maternity Hospital.
“My child was born normally in this hospital and I thank the doctors for their efforts,” said Sarina, another patient.
Medics say high blood pressure, unhealthy foods, a shortage of midwives and bad traditions are the key reasons for the high maternal mortality rate in the country.
Concerns have been raised by health professionals that Afghanistan faces a serious risk of backtracking to its high maternal mortality rates of 20 years ago given the major drop in foreign funding, the shortage of healthcare workers and worsening poverty.
According to World Bank data, more than 1,600 Afghan mothers were dying for every 100,000 live births in 2001.
With strong technical and financial support from donors, the country reduced the rate to about 640 deaths by 2018.
Until the collapse of the former government, foreign donors were spending about $1 billion annually on Afghanistan’s health sector, but all development funding ceased in August, which crippled the country’s donor-dependent public health system.
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