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Tuberculosis claims 13,000 lives annually: Minister

By Farhad Naibkhel: KABUL: Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said Tuesday that tuberculosis as an infectious disease claims nearly 13,000 lives in the country on annual basis, but it can be cured and prevented.

The minister was speaking at a ceremony celebrating the World Tuberculosis Day. The session was titled “Early Diagnosis and Quality Treatment and Crucial in Fight against the Disease”. The gathering was attended by several high-ranking officials including officials of the Public Health Ministry.

He said that out of 58,000 cases of tuberculosis in 2014, 56 percent were diagnosed and went under a six-month treatment course. “Afghanistan is among 22 countries where tuberculosis cases are widespread and where the infectious disease claims 13,000 lives on annual basis,” he added.

The minister said that vulnerable people including women and children, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and elderly people are mostly at risk of the disease. “Tuberculosis can be prevented, cured and controlled given that an affected person with the disease is provided quality treatment and awareness about ways of controlling the illness,” he said.

He reiterated that the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) is committed to increase treatment facilities to 90 percent in every hook and nook of the country.

He urged relevant international organizations to help the ministry in fight against the infectious disease.

Representative of World Health Organization (WHO), Iman Shan Kiti, said tuberculosis is one of the world’s top health challenges, with nine million new cases diagnosed every year. She added that 1.5 million People die because of tuberculosis annually—more than 4,000 people a day.

The representative said tuberculosis is also one of the biggest health challenges facing Afghanistan. “Our organization has provided technical and financial support to the National TB Control Program since its establishment in the 1950s and is committed to continue its support,” she added. “We had several achievements in fighting tuberculosis and there was a steady increase in TB case notification.”

She noted that the number of people having access to Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) facilities in Afghanistan has increased from 14 percent in 2001 to 97 percent. “I believe that we can make a TB-free Afghanistan if we have huge and honest support by the common masses,” she concluded.

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