UN agency sends largest-ever medical delivery to Afghanistan

6 August 2010
A boy gets his two drops of oral polio vaccine in Afghanistan

The United Nations health agency is conducting its largest-ever delivery of medicines and health supplies to Afghanistan as it helps the country to be ready to respond quickly to conflicts, disasters such as the current floods and other possible humanitarian crises.

About 430 tons of materials, sufficient to cover the immediate health needs of 1 million people, are being provided to the Afghan public health ministry and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.

“It's about empowering local communities, civil society and the government so they can ensure emergency health care for more Afghans and reduce loss of life and suffering associated with recurrent crises,” said Peter Graaff, WHO representative in Afghanistan. “Countries and communities are the first responders to crises, and they, in turn, need the resources to respond immediately to risks in their communities.”

The supplies will make it possible to treat at least 1,000 major, and many minor, casualties; 170,000 cases of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases endemic to the Afghan winter; and 40,000 cases of life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases. WHO has also procured equipment needed for four complete intensive care units, which will be established in existing hospitals for the benefit of remote and underserved communities.

Amid this larger effort, WHO has also begun sending medical supplies to aid thousands of people affected by recent flooding across Afghanistan, where the major concerns include contaminated water and the spread of waterborne diseases.

The floods – which have also devastated neighbouring Pakistan – have left thousands homeless and a reported 80 dead in Afghanistan. In affected areas, much of the arable land, where crops were planted, has been inundated.

At the request of the Afghan Government, WHO has so far provided enough supplies to cover the basic health needs of 9,000 people and to treat 5,000 diarrhoeal cases. Relief from the United Nations Children’s Fun (UNICEF) is focused on shelter, sanitation, health, nutrition and preventing the incidence of waterborne diseases in children.

“This can be seen as a success story of the UN ‘cluster approach’ – one that closely coordinates efforts, advocates together and jointly ensures that resources are in place to respond to health crises,” said Luiza Galer, Health Cluster Coordinator for WHO.

 

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