Health Ministry reports cholera deaths
KABUL, 14 September 2009 (IRIN) - Twenty-eight
deaths from cholera and/or acute watery diarrhoea (AWD)
have been reported in Afghanistan in the past two
months, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has said.
At least 673 cases of AWD and/or cholera had been
reported in 11 of the country's 34 provinces, it said.
According to the World Health Organization,
cholera, which is rarely reported in Afghanistan, is
an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of
the bacterium vibrio cholerae. The disease is
characterized in its most severe form by a sudden
onset of AWD that can lead to death by severe
dehydration and kidney failure.
There are strong diagnostic similarities between AWD
and cholera - hence the difficulty health workers have
in distinguishing between the two.
Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatimie, in a Kabul
press conference on 12 September, said MoPH was
relying on NGOs and partner agencies for help, but
sounded an optimistic note: "There is no outbreak of
cholera but only a few single cases. The Health
Ministry is capable of diagnosing and controlling
However, health officials in the northern province
of Samangan have called for emergency assistance to
thwart a possible cholera outbreak in Dara-e-Sof
"Over the past three days cholera has killed five
people in Dara-e-Sof. Unless preventive measures are
implemented urgently it could spread to other areas,"
said Abdul Hameed, director of Samangan's health
MoPH said medical supplies, including antibiotics
and sachets of oral rehydration salts, had been
dispatched to cholera-affected provinces and more
support would be provided if necessary.
The disease has also been reported in the eastern
province of Nangarhar where flash floods affected
about 4,000 people on 31 August, the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported
on 2 September. OCHA had warned about an outbreak of
malaria from stagnant flood waters. Water sources
usually get contaminated during floods.
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.
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