Tuberculosis burden increases in Afghanistan with over 60 000 new cases every year

burden_of_tuberculosis_is_increasing_in_AfghanistanPharmacist dispenses medicines to TB patients at a Kabul hospitalKabul, 28 March 2017 – The burden of tuberculosis (TB) is increasing in Afghanistan, with an estimated 61 000 people infected annually, causing around 12 000 deaths every year. There has been an almost 20% increase in the number of TB cases detected last year, pointing not only to the increased risk the disease poses but also to the effectiveness and improvements of Afghanistan’s health system in diagnosing, testing and detecting new cases.

Out of the estimated 61 000 people who were infected with tuberculosis last year, nearly 70% were diagnosed and treated. Almost 20 000 were missed by the health system. Those most at risk for contracting tuberculosis include women and children, poor and malnourished people, refugees and internally displaced persons and the elderly. Women in Afghanistan are particularly vulnerable to the disease as they constitute two thirds of all TB patients.  

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis has emerged as a serious health challenge in Afghanistan in the past years. Drug resistance emerges when anti-TB medicines are used inappropriately, through incorrect prescription by health care providers, poor quality drugs, and patients stopping their treatment course prematurely. This type of TB cannot be treated with regular anti-TB medicines and requires a more complicated and expensive treatment course, with treatment success rate being only around 50% whereas it is almost 90% for regular TB.

“Last year it is estimated that more than 1400 people developed multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Afghanistan although only 138 were detected and treated. This is a serious issue and we need to do much more to reverse this trend, to strengthen tuberculosis screening and testing, treatment and follow-up,” said Dr Richard Peeperkorn, WHO Country Representative, speaking at a World Tuberculosis Day event held in Kabul.

“Given that tuberculosis is a completely preventable and curable disease, it is unacceptable that still over 30 Afghans die of this disease every day. With the support of the Government of Japan, WHO is supplying anti-TB medicines and laboratory consumables to health facilities across the country and we are continuously training health staff to effectively diagnose and treat TB patients,” said Dr Peeperkorn.

“Nobody should be left behind in the fight against TB. We need to accelerate progress towards zero TB deaths, infections, suffering and stigma.”

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Over 8.9 million children to be vaccinated against polio and given vitamin A tablets in Afghanistan

Over 9.5 million children to be vaccinated against polio and given vitamin A tablets in Afghanistan Kabul, 27 March 2017 – The Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan, together with WHO and UNICEF, has inaugurated the first round of National Immunization Days (NIDs) for polio eradication in 2017 in a ceremony held in Kabul. The campaign will start today in 31 provinces of Afghanistan with the aim to vaccinate over 8.9 million children under the age of 5 against polio and provide them with vitamin A tablets. 

The Minister of Public Health Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz inaugurated the campaign by vaccinating children during the inauguration ceremony. He highlighted the importance of all parties to the conflict respecting the neutrality of the Polio Eradication Initiative. “We need the help of all Afghans in providing a safe working environment in which our polio volunteers and frontline health workers can perform their duties safely and successfully and reach all children with life-saving vaccines,” he said. 

During the campaign, over 61 000 trained polio workers will go from house to house in their communities to vaccinate children. On Friday, polio teams will re-visit households where children were missed the first time the vaccinators visited to ensure that all children are vaccinated and protected.

All caregivers who miss having their children vaccinated should visit their local health centre where the vaccine is available free of charge. The polio vaccine is safe and it does not have any side effects, even for sleeping or sick children and newborns. Polio vaccines have also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars, including the Ulama.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where polio is still circulating. Most of Afghanistan remains polio-free, but wild poliovirus continues to circulate in localized geographical areas in the eastern, southern and south-eastern parts of the country. 

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  • Tuberculosis burden increases in Afghanistan with over 60 000 new cases every year
    Tuberculosis burden increases in Afghanistan with over 60 000 new cases every year
  • Over 8.9 million children to be vaccinated against polio and given vitamin A tablets in Afghanistan
    Over 8.9 million children to be vaccinated against polio and given vitamin A tablets in Afghanistan


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Key health-related statistics

Population (000s) 28 500
Health expenditure (% of general government expenditure) 7.1
Adult (15+) literacy rate (%) 31
Life expectancy at birth (2010) 61.0

Source: Country statistical profiles (2015)

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