Afghan Ministry of Health and UNICEF plan extended diarrhoeal disease campaign

Kabul, 13 July 2005 - In response to increasing cases of diarrhoeal disease in the Afghan capital of Kabul, the country's Ministry of Public Health - with the support of UNICEF - is extending its annual diarrhoeal disease prevention campaign for a further two weeks.

The month of July traditionally sees an increase in cases of diarrhoeal disease, especially amongst children, as warm weather combines with the prevalence of contaminated water. This year, the large amount of ground water, the result of melting snow and high river levels, has further raised the threat from the disease. In the last month, the number of diarrhoea cases reported to health authorities in Kabul has risen from just over 1,200 to more than 5,500.

In response, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, with the support of UNICEF and other partners, is continuing its diarrhoeal disease prevention campaign for a further fifteen days. This will see more wells being disinfected with chlorine and continued house to house hygiene education programmes by 100 teams in the most affected districts of the city, and the airing of public information spots on local radio.

The incidence of cholera cases does not appear to have increased, since first reports of the disease were received in June. The rapid chlorination of wells at the time, combined with increased public awareness of reducing the risk of contracting the disease, is believed to have been responsible for the success in containing a possible epidemic. Health authorities now hope that the extended diarrhoeal disease prevention campaign will have similar success.

UNICEF's head of health programmes in Afghanistan, Dr. Chris Hirabayashi welcomed the plan to continue prevention measures, saying "The impact of diarrhoeal disease on children can be very severe, as the associated dehydration can prove to be fatal. Preventing diarrhoeal disease, however, is relatively simple - if people use safe drinking water sources, or boil their household water before use, wash their hands before and after touching food, and always after using the latrine, the risk of contracting diarrhoeal disease can be reduced".

"The warm weather will continue for several more months, and while the chlorination of wells will help protect the city's water supply, it is essential that all households practice these simple hygiene measures to protect themselves as well," Hirabayashi added.