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India supplies third batch of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: January 7, 2022)

India has delivered the third batch of medical aid to Afghanistan as part of its ongoing humanitarian assistance to the country.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs stated that the consignment consisted of two tons of essential lifesaving medicines to Afghanistan.

According to the statement, the assistance was handed over to the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul.

The statement noted that India stands committed to continuing “our special relationship with the people of Afghanistan and providing them humanitarian assistance.”

In recent weeks, India had donated 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and 1.6 tons of medical assistance to Afghanistan through World Health Organization (WHO).

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), stated that the IEA was grateful for India’s assistance.

India, meanwhile, said that it will send more batches of humanitarian assistance consisting of medicines and food grains to Afghanistan in the upcoming weeks.

Health

WHO launches first polio vaccination campaign for 2022

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

The first national polio immunization campaign for 2022 is set to start this week and will target 9.9 million children aged 0–59 months across the country.

According to Relief Web, this month’s campaign will reach more children than the November 2021 program that delivered polio vaccinations to 8.5 million children under the age of five.

The December campaign in turn vaccinated more than 8 million children.

Last year was the year with the lowest ever polio transmission in Afghanistan, providing an unprecedented opportunity to interrupt transmission of wild poliovirus and achieve eradication. Four cases of wild poliovirus type 1 were reported: the first, in Ghazni province in January, and three in Kunduz province in October and November.

In response to the detection of three cases of WPV1 in Kunduz earlier this month, the polio program also conducted a third case response campaign in seven provinces in order to stop the outbreak and protect children from the crippling but preventable disease.

“As we begin 2022, we have our best opportunity yet to end polio in Afghanistan,” said Dr Dapeng Luo, WHO Representative in Afghanistan. “To reach that goal, we have five more campaigns planned for 2022 and it’s critical that we maintain this momentum to reach our final goal of zero cases.”

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COVID-19

Afghanistan unable to detect omicron variant: health ministry

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

Public Health Ministry officials said Monday that Afghanistan’s health sector does not have the medical equipment needed to detect the newly mutated version of the coronavirus and as such, they have no idea how many people are infected with the omicron variant.

While the case number in Afghanistan is lower compared to neighboring countries, the ministry of health says the latest data put the number of cases at 40. However, it’s not known how many have the omicron variant.

“We have problems to identify the new variant of COVID-19. We call on the international community to help us. They vowed that they will continues their help,” said Javid Hazher, spokesman for the ministry of public health.

Meanwhile, staff at the Afghan-Japan Hospital, the main COVID-19 treatment center in Kabul, said that between 15 and 20 patients seek treatment at the hospital daily, however they are not able to detect the variant.

“So far, the mutated type of COVID-19 has not been identified because we have not received the diagnostic device and we have asked the Ministry of Health to make the device available as soon as possible,” said Mohammad Anil, HR director of the hospital.

Members of the public meanwhile have called on the ministry to take special measures to help curb the spread of the virus – which is currently in its 4th wave in the country.

“It has been 15 days that my mother is sick and we are satisfied with the hospital but we ask people to not go outside without wearing masks and washing their hands,” said Mohammad Juma, one Kabul resident.

“People should wear masks, and this is Islamic law, when we pray and wash our hands, we do not get sick,” said Mohammad Arif, another resident.

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Health

U.S. man recovering after ‘breakthrough’ pig-heart transplant

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(Last Updated On: January 11, 2022)

A U.S. man with terminal heart disease was implanted with a genetically modified pig heart in a first-of-its-kind surgery, and three days later the patient is doing well, his doctors reported on Monday.

The surgery, performed by a team at the University of Maryland Medicine, is among the first to demonstrate the feasibility of a pig-to-human heart transplant, a field made possible by new gene editing tools, Reuters reported.

If proven successful, scientists hope pig organs could help alleviate shortages of donor organs.

“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” Dr. Bartley Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into the patient, said in a statement.

“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future,” Griffith added.

According to the report for 57-year-old David Bennett of Maryland, the heart transplant was his last option.

“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett said a day before his surgery, according to a statement released by the university.

To move ahead with the experimental surgery, the university obtained an emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on New Year’s Eve through its compassionate use program.

“The FDA used our data and data on the experimental pig to authorize the transplant in an end-stage heart disease patient who had no other treatment options,” said Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, who heads the University’s program on xenotransplantation – transplanting animal organs into humans.

About 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one, according to organdonor.gov.

Bennett’s genetically modified pig heart was provided by Revivicor, a regenerative medicine company based in Blacksburg, Virginia. On the morning of the surgery, the transplant team removed the pig’s heart and placed it into a special device to preserve its function until the surgery, read the report.

Pigs have long been a tantalizing source of potential transplants because their organs are so similar to humans. A hog heart at the time of slaughter, for example, is about the size of an adult human heart.

Other organs from pigs being researched for transplantation into humans include kidneys, liver and lungs.

According to Reuters prior efforts at pig-to-human transplants have failed because of genetic differences that caused organ rejection or viruses that posed an infection risk.

Scientists have tackled that problem by editing away potentially harmful genes.

In the heart implanted in Bennett, three genes previously linked with organ rejection were “knocked out” of the donor pig, and six human genes linked with immune acceptance were inserted into the pig genome.

Researchers also deleted a pig gene to prevent excessive growth of the pig heart tissue.

The work was funded in part with a $15.7 million research grant to evaluate Revivicor’s genetically-modified pig hearts in baboon studies.

In addition to the genetic changes to the pig heart, Bennett received an experimental anti-rejection drug made by Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals based in Lexington, Mass.

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