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Afghan Authorities Respond To Diarrhoea Outbreak

UN Assisting Afghan Authorities To Respond To Diarrhoea Outbreak

New York, Oct 13 2008 1:10PM

United Nations agencies are helping authorities to respond to a diarrhoea outbreak in Afghanistan, where only about a quarter of the population has access to safe drinking water and 20 per cent of child deaths is attributed to the easily preventable disease.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, the outbreak is located mainly in five provinces – Nangarhar, Nuristan, Laghman, Samangan and Faryab – with a few cases also reported in seven others. Twenty-two people have died out of the almost 4,000 cases reported so far.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) says the authorities are managing the outbreak well and have taken all necessary steps. The situation seems to be largely under control, the agency added. Nevertheless, it is urging anyone who becomes ill to go to a clinic immediately.

“Those who have gone to the clinic have received life-saving treatment that they need. It is very important to go to the clinic in time and not delay,” Rana Grabar Kakar, WHO Technical Officer, told a news conference in Kabul today.

In light of the current outbreak, Dr. Kakar emphasized the need to ensure the use of safe drinking water by either boiling it or using chlorine tablets. People should also be careful about the foods that might become contaminated by bad water. She stressed the need to peel raw fruits and vegetables or cook them thoroughly before eating.

“We hope everyone will take responsibility to use clean drinking water for themselves and their families and wash hands thoroughly before eating. By taking these simple steps, you can help prevent this disease,” she said.

By washing hands with soap, families and communities can help reduce child mortality rates from diarrhoeal diseases by almost 50 per cent. This is one of the key messages being highlighted across the country as part of the observance of the first ever Global Handwashing Day, which is 15 October.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is also assisting efforts to tackle the outbreak by digging wells, providing safe drinking water and distributing basic health kits, particularly in remote areas.

The struggle for water is one of the themes depicted in a series of photographs by Afghan women currently on display in New York. Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that “right now we need a major humanitarian push to ensure that immediate assistance reaches all Afghans who need it.

At the same time, we have to work for long-term development. And above all, we must secure lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he stated.

In a related development, the Assistant Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) today wrapped up a three-day visit to Afghanistan, where he discussed strengthening support for the country’s development efforts and its capacity to deliver services to its people.

In his meetings with Afghan officials, Ajay Chhibber discussed a range of areas of joint cooperation, including voter registration, community empowerment, economic growth, rural development and girls’ education.

ENDS

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