Afghanistan: Cholera deaths, failing services and starvation

Issue 

"Constant fighting and threats to health workers have forced the closure of at least 11 of the 38 health facilities across [Kandahar] province, the population of which is estimated at over one million", provincial health officials said, IRIN reported on September 17.

The article said the situation was much worse for women: "The absence of health providers in rural areas makes things especially difficult for women who already have limited access to work and education."

IRIN said the maternal mortality rate was 1600 deaths per 100,000 live births — one of the worst in the world.

A September 14 IRIN report said 28 deaths from cholera and/or acute watery diarrhea (AWD) had been reported in Afghanistan in the past two months.

IRIN said that Afghanistan's ministry of health reported at least 673 cases of AWD and/or cholera in 11 of the country's 34 provinces.

Health minister Mohammad Amin Fatimie said on September 12: "There is no outbreak of cholera but only a few single cases. The Health Ministry is capable of diagnosing and controlling cholera."

However, IRIN said health officials in the northern province of Samangan had called for emergency help to thwart a possible cholera outbreak in Dara-e-Sof District.

"Over the past three days cholera has killed five people in Dara-e-Sof", said Abdul Hameed, director of Samangan's health department. "Unless preventive measures are implemented urgently it could spread to other areas,.

IRIN said: "Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation as well as poor awareness about personal hygiene appear to be major causes of cholera and AWD.

"The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that only 23 percent of Afghanistan's estimated 27 million people have access to clean drinking water and 12 percent to safe sanitation, and that annually up to 50,000 children die from diarrhoeal diseases."

As well as health, the food situation of impoverished Afghans is also dire. The BBC Persian said: "In spite the sloping of billions of aid from the international community to Afghanistan, a number of families say they are still unable to fill their hungry stomachs.

"A number of these families have to eat the stored dried bread for the domesticated animals ...

"In Kabul some people say they eat the dry bread which is stored for domesticated animals. They buy seven kilos of this bread for forty Afghanis and eat it with cold water."

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