UN opens 25 health centres in Badghis amid tuberculosis outbreak

By Omar

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has opened 25 health centres across Badghis province to help stem a deadly outbreak of tuberculosis, a preventable and treatable disease. The health centres, which opened on July 30, are staffed by dozens of physicians and nurses. [Courtesy of Mirwais Omari]

BADGHIS -- The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has opened 25 health centres across Badghis province to help stem a deadly outbreak of tuberculosis, a preventable and treatable disease.

The health centres, which opened on July 30, are staffed by dozens of physicians and nurses.

In addition to combatting tuberculosis, they provide medical care to pregnant women, infants and other residents from all over the province.

The tuberculosis outbreak, which has been particularly serious in the Armen area -- comprised of more than 80 villages -- of Qadis district has been fatal for some local residents.

This picture taken last October 17 shows a man loading a donkey with jerrycans filled with water in Qala-e-Naw, capital of Badghis province. [Hoshang Hashimi/AFP]

This picture taken last October 17 shows a man loading a donkey with jerrycans filled with water in Qala-e-Naw, capital of Badghis province. [Hoshang Hashimi/AFP]

About 5,000 households live in Armen with a total population of nearly 30,000, most of whom have tuberculosis, said Dr. Aruz Erfan, director of an Armen health centre.

"Eighty percent of the entire Armen population, including women and children, are infected," he said. "Each day, dozens of tuberculosis patients come to our health centre to receive treatment."

"Patients -- most of whom are women and children -- come to the centre for treatment, complaining of symptoms like coughing and weight loss. Some of them cannot even stand up at the time of their visit," he said.

"In the absence of health services over the past year, tuberculosis has spread greatly in the Armen area amid poor hygiene and the lack of clean drinking water," Erfan said.

At least 10 Armen residents died of tuberculosis in July, he added.

Lack of health services

Local villagers say there was neither a healthcare centre nor a hospital in their area and many could not afford to go to hospital in Qala-e-Naw, the provincial capital, for treatment.

Because of the lack of treatment, Gulshan, 62, a resident of the Armen area, said she is struggling with complications from tuberculosis.

"I am constantly short of breath, and I have a fever. I have pain in my head, back, legs and chest," she said, adding that she did not have access to medical care after she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and as a result, she now has kidney pain, too.

"There was no hospital in our area until a few days ago, and I could not go to the hospital in Qala-e-Naw city," she said.

Gulshan said she contracted tuberculosis from drinking contaminated water.

"We fetch drinking water from the stream near our house for consumption," she said. "It is very polluted because cows and sheep drink from the same stream."

She said she was very happy about the establishment of the health centre in her area and hoped her relatives and friends would no longer lose their lives to tuberculosis.

Zulaikha, 70, another resident of the Armen area, said she has been suffering from tuberculosis for three months.

Five of her six family members -- including her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren -- have been diagnosed with tuberculosis.

"We did not know we had tuberculosis until the health centre opened in our village," she said. "We were all coughing and felt very weak. When we visited the centre, the doctor ordered a tuberculosis test and the results came back positive."

Zulaikha also pointed to contaminated water and the lack of healthcare services as the cause of the outbreak.

The villagers "use water from the stream in our village. Neither tap water nor well water is available. Our children frequently get diarrhoea", she said. "Our village is remote and underserved, and we were unable to take our children to the hospital in the past."

With proper treatment from the UNFPA health centre, Zulaikha said she and her family members were recovering.

Dwindling options

Tuberculosis is a treatable illness, and deaths from it in Qadis district are a shocking tragedy, local doctors say.

With proper care most patients recover after a six-month treatment course, said Dr. Farhad Karimi, a Badghis physician.

"If tuberculosis patients are not treated in time, their lungs will be affected, which could be fatal," he said."Many tuberculosis patients have lost their lives from the lack of health services in Qadis district."

"In the current world where medicine has advanced considerably and dangerous diseases such as cancer can be treated, deaths in Badghis from tuberculosis shame the Afghan health system," Karimi said.

Children and the elderly are at a higher risk of contracting tuberculosis and they should have priority in receiving treatment, he added.

"The provision of health services has substantially decreased over the past year in the districts of Badghis, and most residents of remote villages do not have access to health services," said Dr. Ghulam Haidar Shahab, an infectious disease specialist in Badghis.

This lack of medical care has cost lives, he said.

"If standard health services in Qadis district had existed, so many residents would not have lost their lives from tuberculosis," he added.

The situation is very alarming because more Afghans can get infected with various curable illnesses and still others may lose their lives, Shahab said.

The establishment of the UNFPA health centres is a very effective step to reduce fatalities and control diseases in remote districts and villages, he said.

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With the arrival of Taliban, Afghanistan’s healthcare sector suffered the most damage. The Sehatmandi (health) project was one of the most important projects, which has been playing a vital role in the institutionalization and strengthening of the healthcare sector. This project was funded by the World Bank and operated all over the country. With the coming of the Taliban, this project like any other infrastructural was halted, and as a result, the healthcare sector was severely damaged across the country. I ask the international community and especially the World Bank to restart the activities of this project and prevent the loss of its previous achievements. Through this project, health services have been provided to millions of Afghans and the lives of hundreds of people were also saved. I also call on the current government of Afghanistan to stop being arrogant and excessive and give up the idea of power’s monopoly. Interact and compromise with the international community. Open the doors of schools for the girls. Recognize the work and rights of women. Form a strong and comprehensive government so that the country can stand on its own and with the help of the international community prevent disasters.


Thanks to the United Nations for this effective and positive work. In the meantime, a deadly skin disease has spread among pets across Afghanistan which has caused deaths to innumerable animals. Since there is no government and responsible agencies in Afghanistan, I call on the United Nations and other aid organizations to mobilize their resources to prevent further spreading of this disease. The only assets people have in the countryside are their cows and other animals, and if they lose them, their situation would become even worse. I know people who were extremely poor and these cows were their only source of income. They could earn some money by selling cow's milk and yogurt, and now with the loss of that cow, they have lost this source as well, please reach out to the poor and needy people in the country's rural areas.


Indeed, this is a very good move. The people are facing poverty more than ever. The people of Afghanistan are financially very fragile. Their economy is very poor, they can’t afford to take care of their health and well being. The UN structure and mandate is to provide free health services and save lives. Afghans won’t forget this act of kindness and they will always remember it.


This is an excellent move. Afghans are facing poverty more than ever. If they get sick, they do not visit the doctor due to lack of money until they are fallen into bed. After that, they go to the doctor. Thanks to the United Nations for providing quality health services and saving people's lives. The people of Afghanistan do not forget kindness. They will always remember it.


Afghans are economically very weak people. Their economy is fragile; they cannot get treatment for their own money. Afghans praise this excellent measure taken by the United Nations for providing free service centers there in Badghis.