Afghanistan

Afghanistan: UN helps authorities tackle diarrhoea outbreak

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UN agencies are helping the authorities in Afghanistan to respond to an outbreak of diarrhoea, which has already cost 22 lives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the situation is largely under control.

The outbreak is concentrated in five provinces (Nangarhar, Nuristan, Laghman, Smanagan and Faryab), with scattered cases in other regions. WHO says the Afghan authorities have responded effectively, taking all the necessary steps.

Dr Ranar Grabar Kakar, WHO Technical Officer, emphasised the importance of people with symptoms going to health clinics in good time. She added that it was also crucial to take precautions by boiling or treating drinking water with chlorine, and peeling or cooking raw vegetables before eating them. Families are being encouraged to wash their hands with soap, which can help reduce child mortality rates from diarrhoeal diseases by almost 50 per cent. This was one of the key messages highlighted on the first Global Handwashing Day on 15 October.

UNICEF is involved in the effort to stop the spread of diarrhoea by digging wells and providing health safety kits.

Water is one of the themes featured in an exhibition of photographs by Afghan women now on display in New York. Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that "we need a major humanitarian push to ensure that immediate assistance reaches all Afghans who need it."

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Afghanistan: El Tor cholera claims 17 deaths, Source South Asia, 14 Oct 2008; South Asia: millions of children take part in Global Handwashing Day, Source South Asia, 27 Oct 2008; Hygiene: handwashing reduces diarrhoea by 30 per cent, Source, 18 Jul 2008.

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Global Handwashing Day; photographs by Afghan women (Oxfam)

Source: UN, 13 Oct 2008