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WHO’s chief calls for ‘engagement’ to prevent collapse of health sector

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday that the health system in Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse and called on the international community to engage with the new rulers, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).

Giving a report back following his visit to Kabul this week, Ghebreyesus said: “In Afghanistan, we met with senior members of the Taliban (IEA) leadership, including the interim Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund. I believe that engaging the Taliban (IEA) leadership is essential if we are to support the people of Afghanistan.”

Ghebreyesus said that the health system in Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse.

“Over the past 20 years, significant health gains have been made in Afghanistan, in reducing maternal and child mortality, to end polio, and more. Those gains are now at severe risk, with the country’s health system on the brink of collapse,” he said.

According to him, almost 50% of children in Afghanistan are at risk of malnutrition and the country is facing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe unless urgent action is taken.

“There has been a surge in cases of measles and diarrhea; almost 50% of children are at risk of malnutrition; a resurgence of polio is a major risk; and 2.1 million doses of COVID19 vaccine remain unused,” Ghebreyesus said.

Ghebreyesus also raised his concern over the exodus of health workers from the country.

“Health workers are leaving, creating a brain drain that will have consequences for years to come,” said Ghebreyesus adding that “We visited a hospital where I met some nurses who have stayed. My heart broke when they told me they have not been paid in three months, but they said they would continue to serve their patients.”

Ghebreyesus also said that education is essential for protecting and promoting health in all countries, both in terms of health literacy, and for building the health workforce.

“The Taliban (IEA) leadership has announced that primary schools are open for boys and girls, and that they are preparing to open high schools to girls. In our discussions we offered to support that process, in partnership with other UN agencies,” Ghebreyesus said.

Ghebreyesus stated that at the moment the WHO’s priority is to support and sustain the health system in Afghanistan.

“The focus of our efforts now is to support and sustain the Sehatmandi project, which is the backbone of Afghanistan’s health system, providing care for millions of people through 2,300 health facilities, including in remote areas,” Ghebreyesus said.

He called on international donors to rapidly re-commit to finance the health system in Afghanistan and said the current pause in funding has resulted in only 17% of these facilities being fully functional at the moment.

He also said two thirds of all health facilities are out of stock of essential medicines.

“As a stop-gap measure, the UNCERF and the GlobalFund are financing WHO and our partners to ensure continuity of health services for the next three months. But this is simply not enough.

“WHO is calling on international donors to rapidly re-commit to finance Sehatmandi, as they have done for almost two decades. We simply can’t abruptly halt support for life-saving health services for millions of Afghans at a time when they’re most vulnerable,” he said.

Ghebreyesus also announced that WHO has now shipped more than 170 metric tons of medical supplies to Afghanistan in the past few weeks.

“We also need a reliable supply chain to be established urgently. WHO was the first agency to airlift essential medicines and supplies into Afghanistan, and we have now shipped more than 170 metric tons of medical supplies,” he said.

Afghanistan is now faced with a medicine shortage crisis due to disrupted border crossings and limited operation of banks along with the stoppage of foreign transactions.

Almost all medicine in Afghanistan is imported from neighboring countries, such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

However, the border crossings between Afghanistan and its neighbors were disrupted in the lead-up to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover, and normal operations are yet to resume.

Health

EU signs deal with Bavarian Nordic for delivery of monkeypox vaccine

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(Last Updated On: June 15, 2022)

The European Commission on Tuesday said it had signed a deal with Danish biotech firm Bavarian Nordic (BAVA.CO) for the delivery of around 110,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine.

The agreement marks the first time that the EU budget is used for the direct purchase of vaccines and would make the shots rapidly available to all EU member states, Norway and Iceland, the commission said.

Around 900 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 19 EU countries, Norway and Iceland since May 18.

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Research finds ‘alarming’ levels of chemicals in male urine samples

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(Last Updated On: June 13, 2022)

A study of urine samples from nearly 100 male volunteers has uncovered “alarming” levels of endocrine disruptors known to reduce human fertility.

Cocktails of chemicals such as bisphenols and dioxins, which are believed to interfere with hormones and affect sperm quality, were present at levels up to 100 times those considered safe, scientists have found.

The median exposure to these chemicals was 17 times the levels deemed acceptable.

“Our mixture risk assessment of chemicals which affect male reproductive health reveals alarming exceedances of acceptable combined exposures,” wrote the authors of the study, published on Thursday in the journal Environment International.

The study measured nine chemicals, including bisphenol, phthalates and paracetamol, in urine samples from 98 Danish men aged 18 to 30.

The study authors, led by Professor Andreas Kortenkamp of Brunel University London, said they were “astonished” by the magnitude of this hazard index in the volunteers studied, Euronews reported.

Sperm quantity and quality have dramatically declined across Western countries in recent decades, with research suggesting sperm counts have been more than halved in the space of 40 years.

Meanwhile, other reproductive health disorders have been on the rise, such as non-descending testes and testicular cancer.

Scientists around the world have considered a range of other possible causes behind falling sperm counts, including lifestyle factors, tobacco consumption and air pollution.

But recent studies have increasingly zeroed in on the role played by chemicals, Euronews reported.

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Health ministry records massive spike in malnourished patients

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(Last Updated On: June 7, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) public health ministry said 820,000 people, including mothers and children, have sought treatment for malnutrition so far this year.

According to a video message by Javid Hajir, a spokesman for the ministry, 570,000 of them were children under the age of five.

Hajir added that during this period, about 381,000 cases of severe malnutrition and 189,000 cases of moderate malnutrition have been registered throughout the country.

He said their survey showed that 3.8 million children under the age of five were currently suffering from malnutrition in Afghanistan, of which about 1 million had severe malnutrition and about 2.8 million of these children suffer from moderate malnutrition.

According to a VOA report, the public health ministry said more than 360 malnourished children had died in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year.

There are currently more than 2,400 health centers across Afghanistan for the treatment of malnourished patients.

“Also, 120 of our central, provincial and district hospitals have been set up to provide inpatient services to these patients. At present, 12,400 inpatients are currently with us,” Hajir said.

Two days ago, a senior official of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Afghanistan expressed concern that with each passing day, the incidence of malnutrition among children in the country is increasing.

Mohamed Ag Ayoya, from UNICEF Afghanistan, tweeted that he and a director of the fund had visited a number of hospitals in Kabul and Parwan province to review the treatment of malnourished children.

Ayoya added that they have seen children dying in these hospitals.

A day earlier, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that 1.1 million children in Afghanistan were facing the most severe forms of acute malnutrition.

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