Respiratory diseases kill 2-4 people daily -
KABUL, 2 March 2009 (IRIN) - As many as 3,000
people seek treatment for cold-related respiratory
diseases in Afghanistan every day, and of these, 2-4
die because of lack of access to decent healthcare,
the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has said.
“Every winter we see a marked increase in
respiratory diseases,” Abdullah Fahim, an MoPH
spokesman, told IRIN in Kabul.
Pneumonia, asthma and other breathing problems peak
among vulnerable people, particularly children, in
sub-zero winter temperatures.
The situation is aggravated by high levels of
pollution in the main cities.
About nine million of the country’s estimated 27
million people are food insecure, making them prone to
seasonal and contagious diseases, health specialists
Over 230,000 people are also living in wretched
conditions as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in
tents, mud huts and dilapidated buildings; they
generally lack access to heating, clothing and health
Afghanistan has one of the highest infant mortality
rates in the world, with pneumonia and respiratory
infections killing thousands of children every year,
according to health workers.
Mobile health teams
In October 2008 the MoPH reported the establishment
of 129 mobile health teams tasked with assisting needy
communities during winter when snow often blocks
access to local health centres.
The teams have helped prevent a major outbreak of
winter diseases so far this year, but they are
hampered by snow and transport difficulties, MoPH’s
Because many roads in rural areas are rough and
become impassable in winter, mobile health workers
also use animals or trek to villages on foot to
deliver life-saving health services.
“We’re facing access problems in some mountainous
and rugged regions in Paktika, Nooristan, Daykundi,
Badghis and Badakhshan provinces,” Fahim said.
In the volatile south and east health workers’
access to tens of thousands of people has been impeded
by insurgency-related violence and deliberate attacks
on aid workers, MoPH officials said.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that
because immunisation coverage is still very low in
Afghanistan, preventable diseases kill thousands of
children annually, with respiratory infections being
among the leading causes of childhood deaths.
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