Global perspective Human stories

UN health agency seeks $1.2 million to tackle disfiguring disease rampant in Afghanistan

UN health agency seeks $1.2 million to tackle disfiguring disease rampant in Afghanistan

Seeking to tackle a disfiguring disease that afflicts hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today appealed for $1.2 million to fund the effort.

This “relatively small” sum of money could alleviate what is known as Kandahar sore, a condition caused by a parasite transmitted by insects that permanently injures the face while causing long-term disability, WHO said. In Kabul alone, 200,000 people are believed to be infected, including many women who are often treated as outcasts by their communities.

“A little over $1 million is all we need to fund a two-year programme that would have a huge, long-term impact on this disfiguring disease once and for all,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. “But we need to act now: if this opportunity is missed, there will be a severe increase in the number of cases next year,” she added, referring to the fact that returning Afghan refugees face a heightened risk of catching the disease.

According to WHO, the Kandahar sore is passed from person to person via the bite of a sandfly, so the infection can spread rapidly in a concentrated population, particularly among the poor. The sandflies breed quickly in unsanitary conditions. After biting an infected person, the sandflies spread the disease each time they bite.

The WHO emergency plan involves a rapid intervention combining preventive and curative measures with drugs for mass treatment, insecticide impregnated bednets for individual protection, social mobilization, and health education to ensure that this “disabling disease of poverty” can be brought under control.