KABUL, 25 April 2008 (IRIN) - Over
half of Afghanistan's estimated 26.6 million population - and especially
pregnant women and children - are vulnerable to malaria, according to
Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). |
MoPH says that 14 of the country's 34 provinces are identified as "high risk"
areas where, plasmodium vivax, a malaria parasite, is prevalent.
"About 14 million people across the country are at risk of malaria," Najibullah
Safi, programme manager for National Malaria and Leishmaniasis Control (NMLC) at
MoPH, said in Kabul.
Landlocked Afghanistan has the second highest number of malaria cases in the
Mediterranean region, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
The MoPH and WHO estimate that every year up to 1.5 million cases of malaria
occur throughout the country, but most go undiagnosed.
Figures verified by the Health Ministry indicated that only 433,412 malaria
patients received treatment from March 2006 to March 2007.
"Up to 98 percent of malaria cases were plasmodium vivax - a less
life-threatening form of the disease - and only two percent were falciform, the
most life threatening form of the disease," Safi said.
While malaria kills over one million people in Africa and Asia,
according to WHO, just
malaria-related fatalities were confirmed in Afghanistan in 2007.
Weak diagnosing capacity
Only about 20 percent of the total 443,412 patients who received malaria
treatment last year were clinically diagnosed malaria-positive, NMLC reported.
"About 80 percent of all malaria patients who were treated last year [over
350,000 patients] were suspected cases and were not confirmed through
laboratorial tests," the manager of NMLC said.
While malaria treatment is included in MoPH's basic health services package,
which reaches up to 85 percent of the population through 1,429 health facilities
nationwide, there are not enough facilities to diagnose the disease.
"We do not have laboratories in all our health facilities in the country and
therefore cannot do proper laboratory tests to confirm every suspected malaria
case," Safi said. "It's a huge problem," he added.
Health specialists warn that any use of anti-malarial drugs such as chloroquine
and hydroxychloroquine can badly affect the health of a person not suffering
"If you give anti-malarial drugs to a pregnant woman or a child it can seriously
put their health at risk," warned Abdul Karim Norzai, a paediatrician in Kabul.
Ranked the fifth least developed country in the
world, Afghanistan does not have adequate resources, or the technical capacity
to wipe out the parasite in the foreseeable future, health officials say.
A map of malaria risk in Afghanistan.
The country is trying to control malaria within five years (2007-2012) with a
US$28.3 million fund from the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and
To control the parasite the MoPH plans to distribute 1.2 million
insecticide-treated bed nets to vulnerable communities, particularly in
high-risk provinces, in 2008.
Immunised children and pregnant women will receive bed nets for free, while
others will have to pay a subsidised price, MoPH said.
Malaria is a major public health problem in Afghanistan, which not only
threatens the health of millions of people but also affects human productivity
and development, and traps vulnerable communities in continuing poverty, experts
Afghanistan is acutely prone to malaria due to its tropical climate, paddy
fields, poor waste management and other environmental factors, MoPH said in a
The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2008
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