Millions of Afghans at risk from parasitic disease: UN

Afghanistan`s health authorities appealed for international help in dealing with a parasitic disease that is believed to threaten millions in the impoverished country.

Kabul: Afghanistan`s health authorities on Friday appealed for international help in dealing with a parasitic disease that is believed to threaten millions in the impoverished country.

Leishmaniasis, transmitted by a species of sandfly,
threatened the health of 13 million Afghans, the World Health
Organisation (WHO) said in a report on neglected tropical
diseases.

It said the disease had affected an estimated 65,000
people in Kabul in 2009, markedly higher than the 17,000 who
were expected to get the disease each year, but many more were
likely to have been hit due to under-reporting.

"This number is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as
cases are grossly under-reported owing to poor diagnostic
tools and the stigma that is attached to this disease," WHO`s
Afghanistan representative Peter Graaff was quoted as
saying.

The main symptom of the disease is skin sores that
erupt weeks to months after the victim has been bitten, WHO
said.

An outbreak of leishmaniasis had hit the western city
of Herat, it said, adding that it was preventable with the use
of bed nets and could be treated with drugs.

WHO quoted the acting Minister of Public Health,
Suraya Dalil, calling for international help in tackling the
disease.

"The high cost of treatment makes it difficult to
integrate anti-leishmaniasis drugs into the basic package of
health services," she said.

"I urge donors to take this cause seriously, as it
causes unnecessary suffering amongst a large number of
Afghans."

PTI

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