Afghanistan

Measles kill one hundred in Darra Souf Afghanistan

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Islamabad (Office of the United Nations Co-ordinator for Afghanistan), 4 February 2000 -- The measles epidemic that has broken out in Darra Souf district of Samangan Province in northern Afghanistan has now invaded new areas of the district, claiming 100 victims since its beginning almost one month ago.
Darra Souf district of Samangan Province was the scene of some of the worst fighting of 1999. There is no road access to the district and all supplies have to be smuggled in on donkeys. The health system has collapsed--the vaccination programme suspended, the one health clinic abandoned. In the absence of either curative or preventive facilities, the epidemic has spread rapidly among people between the ages of one to twenty-five.

The outbreak was first reported in the south east of Darra Souf in the five villages of Darwaza Bala, Darwaza Payan, Qala Nau, Qala Kona, and Sheikhabad. These villages have a total population of 250 families, or 1,625 persons.

In the last two weeks, the disease has spread to seven new areas, where it has caused forty-three deaths. The population of the areas where cases have been reported is in the order of 40,000 people. While not all villages in the area have been affected, there is potential for the outbreak to continue to spread. Further outbreaks of measles have also been reported in neighbouring Badghis Province.

Darra Souf district is home for up to 5,000 families displaced during the fighting in 1999, who are being hit hardest by the fatal disease. A recent United Nations relief convoy to the area succeeded in delivering non-food items such as tents, tarps, blankets, and quilts to 2,000 families and food provided by the World Food Programme to the neediest 1,000.

The response has been complicated by the lack of any district health infrastructure and the difficult access. The World Health Organisation and UNICEF have sent medical supplies and medical personnel into the area. The team will treat the acute respiratory infections (ARI) that are complications of the disease, and will provide Vitamin A to enhance immune response and decrease complications and fatalities.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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