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Cancer takes its toll on Afghans amid diagnostic, treatment challenges

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(Last Updated On: May 20, 2021)

The Afghanistan Cancer Foundation (ACF) said on Thursday that 15,000 people in Afghanistan die of cancer in the country every year.

The ACF said that a shortage of diagnostic centers, low capacity and food, drugs and insecurity all contribute to the increase in numbers.

“Twenty thousand get cancer annually and 15,000 out of the 20,000 of them die from the disease. Shortage of health centers increased the disease,” said Nasrin Oryakhil, head of the ACF.

According to the ACF a lack of human resources to treat cancer patients forces thousands of people to seek treatment every year outside the country.

Rula Ghani, the first lady of Afghanistan, meanwhile, voiced concerns about this and said that awareness programs must be held.
“The government can’t fight the disease alone, world countries should help the Afghan government,” she said.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Public Health, said the closed borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in cancer patients seeking treatment in the country.
The ministry stated that lack of coordination between diagnostic centers and the ministry is another challenge.

“Challenges exist in the country regarding diagnosing the disease, and the lack of human resources is the other problem that we face,” said Wahid Majrooh, acting minister of public health.

The Ministry of Public Health said that a large diagnostic center will be established in Kabul with the help of Saudi Arabia.

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WHO’s chief calls for ‘engagement’ to prevent collapse of health sector

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday that the health system in Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse and called on the international community to engage with the new rulers, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).

Giving a report back following his visit to Kabul this week, Ghebreyesus said: “In Afghanistan, we met with senior members of the Taliban (IEA) leadership, including the interim Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund. I believe that engaging the Taliban (IEA) leadership is essential if we are to support the people of Afghanistan.”

Ghebreyesus said that the health system in Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse.

“Over the past 20 years, significant health gains have been made in Afghanistan, in reducing maternal and child mortality, to end polio, and more. Those gains are now at severe risk, with the country’s health system on the brink of collapse,” he said.

According to him, almost 50% of children in Afghanistan are at risk of malnutrition and the country is facing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe unless urgent action is taken.

“There has been a surge in cases of measles and diarrhea; almost 50% of children are at risk of malnutrition; a resurgence of polio is a major risk; and 2.1 million doses of COVID19 vaccine remain unused,” Ghebreyesus said.

Ghebreyesus also raised his concern over the exodus of health workers from the country.

“Health workers are leaving, creating a brain drain that will have consequences for years to come,” said Ghebreyesus adding that “We visited a hospital where I met some nurses who have stayed. My heart broke when they told me they have not been paid in three months, but they said they would continue to serve their patients.”

Ghebreyesus also said that education is essential for protecting and promoting health in all countries, both in terms of health literacy, and for building the health workforce.

“The Taliban (IEA) leadership has announced that primary schools are open for boys and girls, and that they are preparing to open high schools to girls. In our discussions we offered to support that process, in partnership with other UN agencies,” Ghebreyesus said.

Ghebreyesus stated that at the moment the WHO’s priority is to support and sustain the health system in Afghanistan.

“The focus of our efforts now is to support and sustain the Sehatmandi project, which is the backbone of Afghanistan’s health system, providing care for millions of people through 2,300 health facilities, including in remote areas,” Ghebreyesus said.

He called on international donors to rapidly re-commit to finance the health system in Afghanistan and said the current pause in funding has resulted in only 17% of these facilities being fully functional at the moment.

He also said two thirds of all health facilities are out of stock of essential medicines.

“As a stop-gap measure, the UNCERF and the GlobalFund are financing WHO and our partners to ensure continuity of health services for the next three months. But this is simply not enough.

“WHO is calling on international donors to rapidly re-commit to finance Sehatmandi, as they have done for almost two decades. We simply can’t abruptly halt support for life-saving health services for millions of Afghans at a time when they’re most vulnerable,” he said.

Ghebreyesus also announced that WHO has now shipped more than 170 metric tons of medical supplies to Afghanistan in the past few weeks.

“We also need a reliable supply chain to be established urgently. WHO was the first agency to airlift essential medicines and supplies into Afghanistan, and we have now shipped more than 170 metric tons of medical supplies,” he said.

Afghanistan is now faced with a medicine shortage crisis due to disrupted border crossings and limited operation of banks along with the stoppage of foreign transactions.

Almost all medicine in Afghanistan is imported from neighboring countries, such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

However, the border crossings between Afghanistan and its neighbors were disrupted in the lead-up to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover, and normal operations are yet to resume.

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Pollution likely to cut 9 years of life expectancy of 40% of Indians

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(Last Updated On: September 1, 2021)

Air pollution is likely to reduce the life expectancy of about 40% of Indians by more than nine years, according to a report released by a U.S. research group on Wednesday.

More than 480 million people living in the vast swathes of central, eastern and northern India, including the capital, New Delhi, endure significantly high pollution levels, said the report prepared by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

“Alarmingly, India’s high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time,” the EPIC report said.

For example, air quality has significantly worsened in the western state of Maharashtra and the central state of Madhya Pradesh, it said.

Lauding India’s National Clean Air Program (NCAP), launched in 2019 to rein in dangerous pollution levels, the EPIC report said “achieving and sustaining” the NCAP goals would raise the country’s overall life expectancy by 1.7 years and that of New Delhi 3.1 years, Reuters reported.

The NCAP aims to reduce pollution in the 102 worst-affected cities by 20%-30% by 2024 by ensuring cuts in industrial emissions and vehicular exhaust, introducing stringent rules for transport fuels and biomass burning and reduce dust pollution. It will also entail better monitoring systems.

New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital for the third straight year in 2020, according to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5.

Last year, New Delhi’s 20 million residents, who breathed some of the cleanest air on record in the summer because of coronavirus lockdown curbs, battled toxic air in winter following a sharp increase in farm residue burning in the nearby states of Punjab and Haryana, Reuters reported.

According to the EPIC’s findings, neighbouring Bangladesh could raise average life expectancy by 5.4 years if the country improves air quality to levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

To arrive at the life expectancy number, EPIC compared the health of people exposed to different levels of long-term air pollution and applied the results to various places in India and elsewhere.

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WHO concerned about worsening access in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2021)

The World Health Organization is concerned about worsening access to provide life-saving medicines and supplies in Afghanistan and attacks on health care facilities, as Afghan forces fight Taliban insurgents, a WHO official said on Friday.

Rick Brennan, WHO regional emergencies director for its Eastern Mediterranean regional office, said that aid supplies would arrive next week including 3.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and oxygen concentrators.

“It is a terribly concerning situation and it’s very fluid right now,” Brennan, speaking from Cairo, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva. “We are concerned about our lack of access to be able to provide essential medicines and supplies and we are concerned about attacks on health care.”

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