AFGHANISTAN: Malaria cases set to rise in 2007
KABUL, 19 July 2007 (IRIN) - Flooding, armed
conflict and population displacements are factors
likely to increase malaria cases in Afghanistan this
year, public health officials warn.
“In 14 high-risk provinces the number of malaria
patients will surpass that of 2006,” Abdulwase Ashaa,
director of the national anti-malaria department, told
IRIN on 19 July in Kabul.
“Malaria harms the health and wellbeing of our
nation and thus affects our efforts for development
and prosperity,” Ashaa said.
After 2002, malaria cases declined when the country
received international assistance to improve its
shattered public heath system.
However, over 260,000 cases of malaria were
confirmed throughout Afghanistan in 2006, the Ministry
of Public Health (MoPH) reported.
Officials say floods and heavy rainfall caused
extensive destruction across the war-torn country in
the last eight months. Water became contaminated which
created an environment conducive to the spread of the
This year, thousands of confirmed malaria cases
have already been reported from some eastern, southern
and northern provinces, where the disease is
August and September are malaria’s peak months when
thousands of people, mostly women and children, fall
prey to the disease.
Children under five and pregnant women are
considered the most susceptible victims, experts say.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO),
over one million people die of malaria every year in
the world, most of them children and pregnant women.
In Afghanistan, almost 30 percent of Afghan
children suffer anaemia for which malaria is a major
contributing factor, a joint WHO and government of
Afghanistan report found in 2005.
“Displaced and repatriating families are
particularly vulnerable to malaria infection due to
their insecure living conditions,” said Najibullah
Sapai, a WHO expert in Kabul.
Health officials say up to 90 percent of malaria
cases in 2006 were non-lethal `Plasmodium Vivax’ and
the remainder were `Plasmodium Falciparum’, which can
Although Afghanistan’s first malaria control
organisation was established in 1948, the country will
start recording numbers of malaria deaths from 2007,
government officials said.
In an effort to curb the spread of the disease in
2007, some 454,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets
will be distributed to vulnerable families in 14
provinces, Ashaa added.
Public health officials have also started work on a
five-year anti-malaria national strategy through which
over US$28 million - provided by the Global Fund to
Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria - will be spent on various
preventive as well as curative measures.
Health workers say they will be able to curb the
spread of the illness should an outbreak occur in the
However, growing insecurity in south and southeast
of the country has impeded counter-malaria efforts.
“Insecurity has also affected our efforts to prevent
the disease in some parts of the country,” Ashaa said.
“We do not have access to some districts in
Kandahar Province where malaria is a major health
problem,” said Abdulbari Hairat, a public health
official in Kandahar.
Health officials in Kandahar’s neighbouring Helmand
Province - where more than 1,800 cases of malaria have
been confirmed over the past few months - expressed
similar concerns and condemned unrelenting armed
conflict as a main obstacle in their anti-malaria
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