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WHO, UNICEF hold meeting in Doha on priorities for Afghanistan health sector

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(Last Updated On: March 30, 2022)

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are holding a high-level meeting in Qatari capital Doha on interim priorities for the health sector in Afghanistan over the next 18-24 months.

The meeting started on Tuesday and will wrap up on Thursday.

It includes delegates from WHO, UNICEF, Qatar, Afghanistan, donors, and other humanitarian organizations. Afghanistan is represented at the meeting by the acting minister of public health.

The meeting is expected to review progress and persistent gaps in humanitarian response and emergency risk management (including COVID-19, disease outbreaks, acute malnutrition) and identify options for addressing them, according to a WHO statement.

It is also convened to identify and prioritize the elements of a health system, including health workforce, supply chain management, coordination and governance and others, requiring support and short-term solution.

Delegates are expected to agree on approaches to support the implementation of the Afghanistan National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication and leverage polio assets in support of other humanitarian and development needs.

According to the United Nations, over 24 million people will need humanitarian assistance this year. They face displacement, drought, food insecurity and malnutrition, COVID-19, and many other health challenges.

“Investing in the health and education of Afghanistan is an investment in the future of people who have suffered so much,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the meeting. “WHO remains committed to working with all partners for a healthier, safer, fairer future for Afghanistan.”

Health

Monkeypox cases top 35,000: WHO

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(Last Updated On: August 18, 2022)

Monkeypox infections continue to rise globally, with more than 35,000 cases across 92 countries and territories, and 12 deaths, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday.

“Almost 7,500 cases were reported last week, a 20 per cent increase over the previous week, which was also 20 per cent more than the week before,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking during his regular press briefing from Geneva.

The majority of cases are being reported from Europe and the America.

“The primary focus for all countries must be to ensure they are ready for monkeypox, and to stop transmission using effective public health tools, including enhanced disease surveillance, careful contact tracing, tailored risk communication and community engagement, and risk reduction measures,” said Tedros.

Currently, global supplies of Monkeypox vaccines are limited, as is data about their effectiveness. WHO is in contact with manufacturers, and with countries and organizations willing to share vaccine doses. 

“We remain concerned that the inequitable access to vaccines we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic will be repeated, and that the poorest will continue to be left behind,” said Tedros. 

COVID-19 deaths have also increased over the last four weeks, rising by 35 percent, with 15,000 lives lost in the past week alone.

“Fifteen thousand deaths a week is completely unacceptable, when we have all the tools to prevent infections and save lives,” Tedros remarked.

Although everyone might be tired of COVID-19, “the virus is not tired of us,” he said.

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Health

Afghanistan makes progress toward polio eradication

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(Last Updated On: August 16, 2022)

One year on from Afghanistan’s transition of power in August 2021, the polio eradication programme in Afghanistan has made critical gains – but the job is far from finished.

Wild poliovirus transmission in Afghanistan is currently at its lowest level in history.

Fifty six children were paralysed by wild poliovirus in 2020. In 2021, the number fell to four. This year to date, only one child has been paralysed by the virus, giving the country an extraordinary opportunity to end polio, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported.

The resumption of nationwide polio vaccination campaigns targeting 9.9 million children has been a critical step.

With access to the entire country following the August transition, seven nationwide vaccination campaigns took place between November 2021 and June 2022, and a sub national campaign targeting 6.7 million children in 28 provinces took place in July.

Of the 3.6 million children who had been inaccessible to the programme since 2018, 2.6 million were reached during the November, December and January campaigns.

With improving reach to previously inaccessible children during subsequent campaigns, the number of missed children has been reduced to 0.7 million.

Additional campaigns are planned for the remainder of the year.

With Afghanistan and Pakistan sharing one epidemiological block, the two countries continue to coordinate cross border activities. December and May’s campaigns were synchronized with Pakistan’s national campaigns, focusing on high-risk populations including nomadic groups, seasonal workers and communities straddling both borders, WHO reported.

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Health

US and Britain roll out campaigns after poliovirus detected in water samples

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples from New York and London has sparked fears of a possible public health crisis but health experts in the United States believe that the virus is unlikely to secure widespread transmission in the country, especially in highly vaccinated areas.

Medical Daily reported that the US declared the eradication of poliovirus in September 1994, and not many people are aware of the disease it causes and its symptoms at present. There is also limited awareness on how it spreads.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poliovirus spreads through person-to-person contact and other ways, such as the oral-fecal route and droplets.

Poliovirus is so contagious it can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions. Transmission is inevitable when a person makes contact with the feces from an infected person while infection via droplets from a sneeze or cough is less common, Medical Daily reported.

The CDC noted that an infected person could spread the virus almost immediately before and up to two weeks after the symptoms of the disease appear. Once the virus enters the mouth, it can stay in the intestines for many weeks. Asymptomatic people can still pass the virus to other people and make them sick, the report read.

Last month, the US reported its first case of polio in almost a decade.

Meanwhile, Britain rolled out urgent polio vaccinations this week for all London-based children below 10 after the discovery of polio traces in sewage samples across several London boroughs. The move was made after the detection of polio in wastewater samples from New York, London and even Israel sparked fears of a wider outbreak.

Among the symptoms of polio, paralysis is the one most commonly associated with the disease since it can lead to permanent disability or even death. Scientific data showed between 2 and 10 out of 200 infected people develop paralysis and die because the virus can significantly impact the muscles used for breathing.

Since there is no cure or specific treatment for paralytic polio, patients rely on long-term physical or occupational therapy to help them with arm or leg weakness.

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