Far fewer people seeking malaria
treatment - Health Ministry
KABUL, 4 August 2008 (IRIN) - The number of people
seeking malaria treatment in Afghanistan has declined
significantly over the past six months, the Ministry
of Public Health (MoPH) has said.
Statistics compiled by the National Malaria and
Leishmaniasis Control Programme (NMLCP) indicate a 60
percent reduction in malaria cases from January to
July 2008 compared to the same period last year.
"In the past six months 50,000 malaria cases have
been reported across the country. In the same period
last year 200,000 cases were reported," Najibullah
Safi, director of the NMLCP, told IRIN in Kabul.
Health officials said the distribution of
insecticide-treated bed nets and improved public
awareness had contributed to the reduction in the
number of malaria patients.
The MoPH said it had distributed up to 900,000 bed
nets in areas highly vulnerable to malaria since March
2008, and that it had been able to do this thanks to
Sarwar Hakim, a lecturer at THE Kabul Medical
Institute, said the decrease in the number of malaria
cases could be attributed to drought.
"Most draining and standing waters have dried up
due to drought and this has affected malaria
reproduction," Hakim told IRIN. "High temperatures and
extremely hot weather is also detrimental to malaria
nests," he added.
Over half of the country's estimated 26.6 million
people are living in malaria-prone areas, according to
The MoPH and the World Health Organization (WHO)
estimate that every year there are up to 1.5 million
cases of malaria, but most go undiagnosed.
Improved health service
Thanks to expanding health services over the past
six years - despite sporadic setbacks caused by the
violence - Afghanistan has seen a 26 percent decline
in under-five mortality rate, the World Bank reported
"More than 80,000 lives are being saved every
year," the Bank said.
The expansion is taking place mainly in remote
areas where previously there were no health centres.
Malaria treatment is part of a basic health services
package, which the MoPH, in collaboration with
non-governmental organisations, provides through 1,429
existing health centres nationwide.
Furthermore, some international donors, such as the
US Agency for International Development (USAID), have
agreed to increase funding to the MoPH to consolidate
and expand the provision of basic health services,
which currently reach over 80 percent of the country.
USAID has agreed to provide US$70 million, in addition
to the $218 million it has pledged for the development
of the health sector in the coming five years, the
MoPH said in a statement.
Other possible explanations
There are other possible explanations for the drop
in the number of people seeking treatment for malaria.
IRIN recently reported on the closure of some 50
health centres in southern areas due to threats and
insecurity. However, the MoPH said this did not mean
people had stopped seeking treatment elsewhere.
Increased fuel costs had also not prevented people
seeking treatment, it suggested, and a detailed study
would need to be carried out to ascertain if this
year’s weather, or global warming, had had any impact
on the latest malaria figures.
A map of malaria risk in Afghanistan
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Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
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the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]