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Afghanistan’s Public Health Emergency

Winning hearts and minds with a good attitude - NOT! A soldier complains about begging Afghan kids and tells one "your country sucks ass." From the

Winning hearts and minds with a good attitude - NOT! A soldier complains about begging Afghan kids and tells one "your country sucks ass."

From the Gulf Times, a little-noticed aspect of the Bush administration's epic fail in Afghanistan. While the Western media is preoccupied with war - violent deaths, the resurgent Taliban and plans for a military Surge - the other Horsemen are even busier.

MORE than 1.6mn children under the age of five and thousands of women could die in 2009 as a result of the lack of food and medical care, particularly in terms of proper services for women and children, according to the Afghan Ministry of Health.

These are troubling statistics not only because of the human suffering involved, but because they indicate that millions of dollars poured into the country have not been able to reach the most vulnerable communities in the country.

Food shortages and inclement weather could leave 8mn Afghans -30% of the population - on the brink of starvation, according to several aid agencies. This is happening despite the World Food Programme (WFP)’s warning last January for a sharp increase in food assistance to the country. Lack of food is an actual threat not just in the remote regions of this country but also in Afghanistan’s urban areas.

Recent price increases in basic foods, particularly wheat, have adversely affected millions of Afghans, particularly in rural areas where domestic production cannot satisfy people’s needs. While in 2005 an average household was spending 56% of their income on food, that figure now rose to 85%, according to Susannah Nicol, a spokeswoman for the WFP.

...Children are particularly vulnerable. They are not only affected by lack of food. Diarrhea, acute respiratory infections and vaccine-preventable diseases are important threats to children’s health. Diarrhea and acute respiratory infections account for about 41% of all child deaths in this desperately poor nation of 26mn people, while vaccine-preventable diseases –such as measles, polio and diphtheria- account for another 21%, according to Unicef. The tragedy is that 80 to 85 % of these diseases can be avoided by preventive measures and appropriate and timely health care.

Afghanistan rates low in practically all health indicators. As a result, it has one of the world’s highest infant and maternal mortality rates. Hospitals in most of the country are in deplorable conditions, and lack enough trained doctors or medical equipment for even the most basic surgeries. Life expectancy is 42 years, according to figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Do you think watching their babies die of famine and pestilence will help endear Afghans to the prospect of another 20-30,000 well-fed American soldiers in their country? Do you really think spending billions on those troops can possibly keep the lid on, given the statistics above? I know where I think the bulk of any surging should be going on.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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