TB deaths halve but challenges remain – WHO
KABUL, 7 January 2008 (IRIN) - The number of people
dying from tuberculosis (TB) in Afghanistan has been
going down by 50 percent over the past few months,
thus saving the lives of at least 10,000 people on an
annual basis, according to new statistics from the
Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and World Health
MoPH officials and Afghanistan's national human
development report 2007 had previously reported that
about 20,000 people every year (two TB patients every
hour) were dying in the country.
"WHO estimates that now the number of TB cases
resulting in death has declined to 10,000 annually,"
said Syed Karam Shah, a WHO official in charge of the
TB control programme in Afghanistan.
Following decades of conflict, the health status of
the Afghan people has seen "substantial improvements"
over the past two years, according to assessments
conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Indian
Institute of Health Management Research in July 2007.
Tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment is part of the
Basic Package Health Services (BPHS), which Afghan
officials say now reach over 80 percent of the
Over 103,000 TB cases were diagnosed and treated
from 2001 to 2006, which not only saved the lives of
over 67,900 patients but also reduced the chances of
TB infection for over 500,000 other people, WHO said.
The total number of health facilities providing TB
diagnostic and treatment services has increased from
36 in 2001 to 991 to date.
WFP aid to TB patients
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also
contributed to the fight against TB in Afghanistan
through its mixed food aid for TB patients.
"WFP gives wheat and cooking oil to all TB patients
which helps patients with food insecurity to recover
quickly and effectively," said Yunus Ghanizada, a
specialist at the national TB institute in Kabul.
Women particularly vulnerable
Despite marked progress, Afghanistan is still one
of the 22 TB high-burden countries in the world where
the disease is considered a major public health
"WHO estimates that every year over 50,000 new
cases of TB occur in Afghanistan," Karam Shah told
IRIN on 7 January.
Afghan women make up about 67 percent of all TB
patients in the country and are considered
particularly vulnerable to TB infection due to their
acute food insecurity, multiple pregnancies and a
general lack of awareness about TB, public health
Funding is also a major challenge for the
impoverished country to sustain its anti-TB efforts in
From a requested US$12 million budget for TB
control and treatment in 2007, the WHO received $2
million from international donors, according to WHO's
Global Tuberculosis Control Report 2007.
"The whole TB control programme in Afghanistan is
based on donors' support," said Karam Shah of WHO,
adding that there were concerns about the "long-term"
sustainability of donors' funding.
"Afghanistan will be able to eliminate TB by 2050
only if it is enabled to sustain its efforts in the
long-term," he said.
[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]
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