Things continue to improve in Afghanistan

90,000 children under the age of five living in Afghanistan didn’t die this year.

It’s Bush’s fault.

Actually, it is the estimate of decreased deaths in young children as compared to the death rate under the Taliban.

The figures are based on a report coming from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

The dirty little secret about death rates is that saving people doesn’t require a sophisticated hospital, but little things like immunizations, clean water, WHO rehydration solution, and basic antibiotics.

Children are cared for by women, but under the Taliban, women were not allowed to be educated, limiting the ability to train nurses, midwives, or village health workers.

Since the fall of the Taliban, various agencies, under the UN umbrella, have been doing these very basic things.

It is not easy to just go in and give shots. People have to trust you (note the polio epidemics in northern Nigeria where certain immans decided the shots caused disease, thanks to an urban legend widely spread on conspiracy websites).

A lot of the improvement is due to the training of such grass roots health workers and birth attendents, and the opening/funding of local health clinics.

Thousands of health clinics have been built across the country, and the Afghan government and aid agencies have trained tens of thousands of doctors, vaccinators and health volunteers who now reach into some of the country’s most remote areas.

As a result

The percentage of women in rural Afghanistan receiving antenatal care during pregnancy from a skilled provider increased from an estimated 4.6 in 2003 to 32.2 in 2006. Over the same time period, the percentage of women in rural Afghanistan who had a doctor, nurse or midwife assist with their last delivery increased from 6.0 to 18.9.

More children are receiving vital childhood immunizations, according to the assessments. The percentage of children 12-23 months of age in rural Afghanistan who received the BCG vaccine to protect against tuberculosis increased from an estimated 56.5 in 2003 to 70.2 in 2006. The percentage of children 12-23 months of age in rural Afghanistan who received the full dosage of oral polio vaccine increased to 69.7 in 2006, from 29.9 in 2003.

So the numbers are improving, but there is a lot more to do.

And other public health outreach programs, such as for tuberculosis detection and treatment, and improving lab and X ray, and increasing the number of health workers so more time can be spent with each patient.

But it is a start to improve the basic standard of living in that country.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, but she writes medical essays at HeyDoc Xanga Blog 

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