Scurvy strikes central Afghanistan, UN health agency reports
Some 7 million vitamin C tablets are needed urgently to fight a widespread outbreak of scurvy in Ghor Province in central Afghanistan, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today.
Scurvy – a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency – leaves sufferers particularly vulnerable to secondary infections, according to the WHO spokesperson in Kabul, Loretta Hieber Girardet, who said that 40 deaths from an as-yet unidentified secondary infection had been reported.
In addition, WHO has reports that night-blindness is affecting villagers in the remote district of Taiwara in Ghor Province, which may indicate the population is suffering from vitamin A deficiencies as well.
What this means is there is a “serious nutritional crisis” in Ghor Province, Ms. Girardet explained. “People are not getting food supplies, and they are succumbing to what would normally be treatable diseases.” A five-person medical team headed by a WHO epidemiologist has just arrived in the province.
Ms. Girardet also confirmed that 60 children had died in Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan's north as a result of a recent flu outbreak.
WHO will be a key participant in a major meeting on health planning, aimed at establishing emergency and longer-term strategies to address Afghanistan's health problems – to take place in Kabul this Saturday.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that more than 7,000 Afghans had returned home from Pakistan on Wednesday, bringing to about 32,500 the number of returnees since the establishment of the joint Afghan Interim Administration-UNHCR reintegration and assistance programme. To cope with the steadily increasing volume of returns, UNHCR is increasing the number of its field staff on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.