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January 4, 2008 

Afghanistan warns of dire food shortages
Fri Jan 4, 6:07 AM ET
BERLIN (AFP) - Afghanistan could face serious food shortages in the coming months that could lead to a famine, Economy Minister Mohammad Amin Farhang told a German newspaper in an interview published Friday.

Aust making headway in Afghanistan, says Army chief
Friday January 4, 04:31 PM ABC via Yahoo  News
Head of the Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, says Australia's efforts in southern Afghanistan are effective, despite concerns in other parts of the country where NATO forces are in place.

Efforts on to evacuate injured Indians from Afghanistan
Fri, 04 Jan 2008 13:11:00 GMT EARTHtimes.org
New Delhi - Efforts are continuing to evacuate personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) who were injured in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan, a spokesperson for India's External Affairs Ministry said Friday.

To stabilize Pakistan, U.S. needs to rethink India policy
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi Friday, January 4, 2008 The San Francisco Chronicle
Pakistan's political crisis, triggered by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the ensuing violence sweeping the country, is a worrisome development in South Asia and beyond. Without a doubt, Pakistan's political decay will

A chance for redemption in Afghanistan
By Sharif Ghalib Asia Times Online, Hong Kong - Jan 3, 2008
The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced last week that they are conducting a broad review of its operations in Afghanistan.

Ministers clash over doing business in Afghanistan
Pakistan News Tribune - Jan 03 11:38 PM
WARSAW: Defense Minister Bogdan Klich told daily Dziennik that during his January visit to Washington, he will lobby for Polish companies to be allowed to engage in business activities in Afghanistan.

Measles 'kills Afghan children'
Friday, 4 January 2008, 14:29 GMT BBC News
Officials in the Afghan town of Musa Qala say nearly 30 children there have died from measles since the Taleban were forced out of the town last month.

Why our troops are at risk
National Post  Friday, January 04, 2008
Canadian soldiers are at significantly greater risk of death in Afghanistan than their counterparts in the British and U.S. armies. The death rate of our soldiers even surpasses that of American servicemen in Iraq, according to

Kouchner, Musharraf confer on Pak-Afghan border security
RAWALPINDI, Jan 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The visiting French foreign minister Wednesday conferred with President Pervez Musharraf on the security situation in areas along the troubled Pak-Afghan frontier.

Uruzgan village cleared of militants, claims Coalition
KBUL, Jan 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, backed by foreign troops, have ousted insurgents from the Yakhdan village of Shahidi Hasas district in the restive Uruzgan province, the US-led Coalition said.

Measles leaves over 20 children dead in Musa Qala
LASHKARGAH/KABUL, Jan 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Measles has left a number of children dead in the restive Musa Qala district of the southern Helmand province, residents and officials said on Wednesday.


Afghanistan warns of dire food shortages
Fri Jan 4, 6:07 AM ET
BERLIN (AFP) - Afghanistan could face serious food shortages in the coming months that could lead to a famine, Economy Minister Mohammad Amin Farhang told a German newspaper in an interview published Friday.

Farhang called on the international community for help, noting that 400,000 tonnes of wheat were still needed to feed the population through the winter and sufficient oil, sugar and flour were also lacking.

"The situation is serious," he told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung, adding that President Hamid Karsai had formed a special commission to head off a potential humanitarian disaster.

Farhang said it would cost the Afghan government at least 80 million dollars if it has to buy grain on the free market.

"We call on the World Food Program, (German food aid group) Welthungerhilfe and friendly governments to help us in this crisis," he said.

Farhang said rising grain prices on the global market posed a serious problem while the political crisis in Pakistan made it difficult for food shipments to reach Afghanistan.

But he also acknowledged that Afghan authorities had ftan's warring factions to give safe passage to food aid convoys before the harsh winter cut off people in remote parts of the country.

It said more than 100 aid workers were either killed or abducted in 2007, with 55 humanitarian convoys looted.

Afghanistan is wracked not only by a spiralling insurgency led by the Islamist Taliban militia but also growing lawlessness blamed on drug gangs, criminal organisations and powerful local warlords.
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Aust making headway in Afghanistan, says Army chief
Friday January 4, 04:31 PM ABC via Yahoo  News
Head of the Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, says Australia's efforts in southern Afghanistan are effective, despite concerns in other parts of the country where NATO forces are in place.

Three Australian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan last year.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon told an international meeting late last year that Australia is frustrated with the limited progress being made in Afghanistan and is concerned some NATO countries are not doing enough to help.

Lieutenant General Leahy admits there are pressures in Afghanistan but insists Australia's activities are making headway.

"I think the situation in Afghanistan, particularly where we are in Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province is moving ahead," he said.

"The reconstruction task force that we have there - based on not only the engineers but also the infantry who support them and the armour who provide the protected mobility - has allowed us to do some reconstruction to make sure the people see the benefits of working with us, of working with their local government and working with their army and the police."
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Efforts on to evacuate injured Indians from Afghanistan 
Fri, 04 Jan 2008 13:11:00 GMT EARTHtimes.org
New Delhi - Efforts are continuing to evacuate personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) who were injured in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan, a spokesperson for India's External Affairs Ministry said Friday. One member of the Indian ITBP, which specializes in building and maintaining highland roads, was killed and six others injured in the suicide bomb attack in south-west Afghanistan on Thursday, the official said.

They were working on the Zaranj-Delaram Road Project.

One of the injured had been shifted to Zabol in Iran for specialized emergency medical assistance while the others were being brought to Kabul where aircraft were waiting to fly them to India.

India condemned the terrorist attack on the ITBP convoy on Thursday but said it would continue its development and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. 
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To stabilize Pakistan, U.S. needs to rethink India policy
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi Friday, January 4, 2008 The San Francisco Chronicle
Pakistan's political crisis, triggered by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the ensuing violence sweeping the country, is a worrisome development in South Asia and beyond. Without a doubt, Pakistan's political decay will affect its neighbors, including Afghanistan, just as Pakistan itself for decades has been impacted by conflict spilling over from beyond its (contested) borders.

Indeed, a good deal of Pakistan's turmoil can be traced to the regional sources of instability that have acted as the breeding ground for the military government that has shaped Pakistan since the country's independence in 1947.

From the Indo-Pakistan conflict, which has led to a nuclear arms race, to the internationalized conflict in Afghanistan, to the armed uprising in the disputed territory of Kashmir, Pakistan is today ensconced in a fragile political environment that will likely remain that way for a generation. This unstable political situation will be compounded by numerous internal conflicts, such as ethnic separatism in Baluchistan and Sindh provinces and the recent uprising in the Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA) bordering Afghanistan, each of them requiring a distinct political solution.

With Bhutto's assassination, it will be more difficult for Pakistan to transition to a democratic government. More modest domestic political gains from its elections, now postponed until February, should be expected. Certainly, Pakistan's future hinges on whether control of the country will remain with the army or transition back to a civilian government.

Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf is here to stay and the United States now needs to rethink its policy toward Pakistan. A clue to his staying power is his pragmatic and delicate handling of foreign policy, particularly with respect to the strategic development of the U.S.-India nuclear pact, widely interpreted in Pakistan as the United States' intention to insure that Pakistan's arch-enemy, India, is the leading power in South Asia.

Under Musharraf, Pakistan has steered an independent foreign policy while maintaining an alliance with the United States, by strengthening ties with Russia, China, Iran and other regional players weary of the "American agenda." Case in point: The United States has not welcomed any warming of tied between Iran and Pakistan, and Musharraf has defied the United States' call to shelve the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, a proposed $7 billion pipeline to deliver natural gas from Iran to India and Pakistan.

Bhutto went out of her way to show herself aligned with Bush's war on terrorism. Bhutto never criticized U.S. policy that seemed to elevate India in the region, thus many in the Pakistani military elite saw her in a negative light.

So now, how does the United States harmonize regional security imperatives with democratic politics in Pakistan? Should these imperatives be recast in favor of a new Pakistan policy that takes into consideration Pakistan's national security worries, which only partially coincide with those of the United States and thus limit full democratization of Pakistan?

Hectoring Pakistan's civil-military elite about democracy has clearly backfired. Bhutto's assassination has tipped the scales in favor of the ruling politico-military elite focused on national (security) interests. The latter's overriding concern now is to have some breathing space domestically.

It would be a major U.S. foreign policy blunder to indulge Musharraf in bashing Bhutto's internal detractors. The United States needs to seriously consider recasting its India policy in favor of a more balanced approach, while steering clear of Pakistan's domestic politics. Otherwise, the United States risks further alienation of Pakistan's political elite.

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi is a professor of international relations at Bentley College.

This article appeared on page B - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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A chance for redemption in Afghanistan
By Sharif Ghalib Asia Times Online, Hong Kong - Jan 3, 2008
The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced last week that they are conducting a broad review of its operations in Afghanistan.

The review is largely perceived to have been stimulated by the persistent violence across the eastern and southern provinces, stemming from stepped-up cross-border subversive activities by the Taliban.

The upshot has led to increasing realization among the US and NATO allies of the need to re-examine their approach towards their the mission in the country.

"Insurgent violence is at its highest level in Afghanistan since US-led forces ousted the Taliban after the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States. Suicide bombings, for example, have climbed 30% in some areas," the US military has been quoted as saying.

As a matter of fact, the steadily declining security trend is a picture-perfect justification for the review, as a great many within and outside Afghanistan hold the perception that the country stands at a tipping point.

However, the usefulness and efficacy of any review would rest on the genuine intentions of the international community to redress some of its fundamentally flawed approaches toward the situation.

Yes, though there is an unequivocal common recognition of the ceaseless Taliban insurgency and cross-border onslaught, there are also many other factors which have contributed to the exacerbation of the situation.

Above all else comes the notorious role played by the Pakistani junta and the country's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). For almost four decades now, Pakistan has been engaged in an outright state-sponsored campaign of subjugation in Afghanistan through a relentless pursuit of an interventionist policy shrouded with systematic and flagrant lies, deception and distortion of the plain facts and realities to the Pakistani public and to the international community. It is all naively aimed at acquiring a "strategic depth" against the likelihood of a war with neighboring India.

The subversive recourse became naked and out in the open after 1994 when Taliban mercenaries crafted by Pakistan's military intelligence under the guise of "demographic and geographic interests", and blatantly touted by the recently overnight-turned-plain clothes-General Pervez Musharraf, were dispatched into Afghanistan along with scores of Pakistani paramilitary units and ex-army officers.

However, the wishful "strategic depth" dogma pursued by the Musharraf junta not only failed to materialize in Afghanistan, but in fact miserably backfired and ended in fiasco as Pakistan itself started to being gradually bogged down in terrorism and anarchic frenzy, which manifested itself fully blown with the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistan now bears witness to the near end-results of that grotesquely erroneous doctrine. The disquieting situation in which Pakistan is being gripped - scoffingly dubbed by many as a "strategic ditch" - is the virtual translation of Pakistan's chronic wrongful policies vis-a-vis Afghanistan, let alone the deep-seated resentment and indignation Pakistan has earned among all ethnic groups of Afghanistan, which otherwise could have been seen as a fraternal neighbor with strong historical bonds.

The time is now ripe for the international community to revisit its rules of engagement with Pakistan over Afghanistan. Six straight years into the peace process in Afghanistan, it is simply preposterous if the international community still continues with its appeasement policy toward Pakistan and turns a blind eye to the physical infrastructure, recruiting and training centers and hideouts of terrorism within its territory, and the steady flow of logistical and organizational support it provides to the insurgency.

Enough has been said of the resurgence of militancy in Afghanistan and of Musharraf's correlating intriguing posturing over the past six years. Let's call a spade a spade. The root cause of the problems in Afghanistan lies in Pakistan, as repeatedly spelled out by Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. And the Pakistani junta remains overtly complicit by playing both the fire fighter and the arsonist. No more and no less.

The junta must realize that if the Talibanization of Afghanistan is to serve to contain the domestic religious and nationalist backlash within Pakistani society, as is occasionally implied, it no longer presents the rationale for the stance because Pakistan already has the ultra religio-nationalist phenomena at its doorstep. Furthermore, if the current line of policy to destabilize Afghanistan  has to do with the border dispute over the Durand Line, that separates the two countries, then the two countries must demonstrate mutual sincerity, political maturity and the guts to hold serious negotiations under the supervision of the international community and by holding a referendum and/or national plebiscite in the two nations aimed at bringing the issue to a peaceful resolution.

Pakistan has generously been given the benefit of doubt over its activities in Afghanistan for decades, and clearly the time has come that the international community must deal with Pakistan firmly and resolutely and make the junta halt its overt and covert support for the insurgency in Afghanistan, end cross-border militant incursions and verifiably dismantle all terrorist camps inside Pakistan. Otherwise, as Karzai has emphatically said, the international community must take the war to the actual sources of terrorism.

Secondly, the selective mindset and duplicitous methodology of the international community towards the dynamics of the political setup and the overall process will have to change.

With much of the security situation in shambles, the international community has reached a critical juncture to embrace an inclusive, balanced approach toward all moderate peaceful political forces across Afghanistan. In this context, the international community must recognize that when it joined the theater of the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan in late 2001, it was virtually half a decade after it had started and was being waged in full swing by the indigenous Afghan national resistance forces comprising all ethnic groups of the country with enormous sacrifices.

The international community must rise to the opportunity, now and before it is too late, and reach out to all forces, those loyal to the government, to the constitution and the overall process, willing and capable to render their sincere services as part of the methodical state apparatus and in the spirit of national unity to sway, motivate and rally the general public around the democratically-elected government of Karzai, aimed at breaking the cycle of terror and violence and providing an environment for the vital rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the county.

And finally, the international community must work cohesively and in close collaboration with the government of Afghanistan, including the country's elected Parliament, with due transparency, in its bid to pursue negotiations with all those rank-and-file combatants who are willing and ready to lay down their arms, break with their past and come to the political fold in good faith and without any preconditions with the sole aspiration to re-integrate into society and pursue a peaceful life.

The international community must strictly adhere to its commitments and obligations to the inviolability of the sovereignty of the elected government of Afghanistan and the sanctity of its constitutional duties before the Afghan nation in dealing with the state affairs.

Indeed, the situation in Afghanistan requires a review. But a review must sanction fresh perspectives and an altered modus operandi to lead us to the desired end.

Sharif Ghalib served at the United Nations for 10 years, and was the first Afghan diplomat to negotiate the establishment of full bilateral diplomatic and consular relations between Afghanistan and Canada at resident-embassy level. He opened the Embassy of Afghanistan in Ottawa in late 2002 and served as the country's charge d'affaires and minister counselor until 2005.
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Ministers clash over doing business in Afghanistan
Pakistan News Tribune - Jan 03 11:38 PM
WARSAW: Defense Minister Bogdan Klich told daily Dziennik that during his January visit to Washington, he will lobby for Polish companies to be allowed to engage in business activities in Afghanistan.

He has in mind the mineral resources in the northern part of the country. Most Civic Platform (PO) politician and opposition parties dismissed this concept as unrealistic, especially bearing in mind the unstable situation in Afghanistan. Those close to Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski stressed he will not even bother to comment on these suggestions, as in his opinion they are absolutely groundless.
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Measles 'kills Afghan children' 
Friday, 4 January 2008, 14:29 GMT BBC News
Officials in the Afghan town of Musa Qala say nearly 30 children there have died from measles since the Taleban were forced out of the town last month.

They say the disease has been exacerbated by cold weather.

Doctors say many of the children were from families displaced by the fighting, who were unable to find adequate shelter.

Musa Qala, in Helmand province, was recaptured by Nato and Afghan troops in a combined air and ground offensive.

Medical officials in the Helmand capital, Lashkar Gah, said they were unaware of the problems in Musa Qala.
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Why our troops are at risk
National Post  Friday, January 04, 2008
Canadian soldiers are at significantly greater risk of death in Afghanistan than their counterparts in the British and U.S. armies. The death rate of our soldiers even surpasses that of American servicemen in Iraq, according to a National Defence Department analysis obtained by the National Post and reported in yesterday's edition.

In its analysis, Canada's defence department calculated that we are losing soldiers at a proportionate rate 2.6 to four times higher than the Brits and Americans in Afghanistan, and 2.6 times higher than the U.S. military in Iraq. For Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan, the death rate ranged from 1.3% to 1.6% (compared to 0.3% to 0.6% for their allies in Afghanistan and 0.5% to 0.6% for U.S. forces in Iraq.)

Expressed in the starkest terms possible, that means the chance of the average Canadian soldier dying while stationed in Afghanistan during a calendar year is about one in 70. This figure is so high as to exceed the risk posed to Canadian troops during the Second World War in all years but 1944.

These numbers may not surprise Canadians, who have been torn over the merits of our Afghan mission since Paul Martin sent roughly 2,000 of our troops into the most dangerous southern region of the country -- Kandahar -- to combat the Taliban in May, 2005. With the remains of Canada's latest Afghanistan victim -- Gunner Jonathan Dion -- being repatriated just this week, Canadians do not need reminding of the peril that faces our troops working to rebuild Afghanistan and secure Afghanis against the murder and mayhem spawned by the Taliban and the foreign jihadis that increasingly swell its ranks. Still, the numbers demonstrate just how dangerous things are for the brave men and women who are leading our mission in Afghanistan.

They also point the way to making our mission in that country safer.

Between December, 2001, -- when Canadians first landed in Afghanistan -- and December, 2006, our forces lost 44 soldiers. Five died in friendly fire incidents, five in accidents, 12 in combat and 22 -- half the total -- were felled by ambushes while on ground patrol.

In 2007, the trend was more pronounced. In that year, our forces lost 30 more soldiers. All but five were lost to roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). (Two others died in combat situations, one in an accident, one in a suicide and another under suspicious circumstances that did not entail enemy involvement.)

All in all, of the 74 soldiers who have fallen in Afghanistan, 63% died as a result of roadside bombs or IEDs. Where Canadians face the greatest danger is not in combat with the Taliban, but on the roads, providing security and reconnaissance or traveling on resupply missions to forward operating bases.

The British, Americans and Dutch, who all have large numbers of troops stationed in the dangerous areas of southern Afghanistan, have lower casualty rates because they were better prepared for this kind of terrorist warfare. They did not put their troops on dangerous roads driving Iltis jeeps, an open vehicle with no armour, as Canada did. They have access to drone aircraft, and so can avoid sending troops out on dangerous road reconnaissance missions.

Most importantly, the U.K., United States and Netherlands have troop-transport helicopters at their disposal -- the Dutch having bought theirs from Canada, which, under Jean Chretien, sold them off to save money. Consequently, the armed forces of all three countries can bypass dangerous roads and move troops and supplies around more safely than can we.

We no longer send our troops out in Iltis jeeps -- we now have better armoured vehicles -- and France has dispatched six Mirage fighter jets to help us in Kandahar. But Canada still does not have the troop transport helicopters it truly needs.

Canada has a history of being initially unprepared for war. That was certainly true in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. It was true in 1939, when Canada declared war on Nazi Germany, and it has proven to again be the case in the current conflict.

Despite being ill-equipped in 1914 and 1939, Canadians were prepared to finish the job. And we trust our troops -- and our government -- will apply the same fortitude in Afghanistan. Yet it remains tragic that dozens of our soldiers have fallen, and hundreds more remain at risk, because of a failure to procure the equipment they need to execute their mission in the safest manner possible.
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Kouchner, Musharraf confer on Pak-Afghan border security
RAWALPINDI, Jan 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The visiting French foreign minister Wednesday conferred with President Pervez Musharraf on the security situation in areas along the troubled Pak-Afghan frontier.

At a meeting with Gen Musharraf here, Bernard Kouchner assured Islamabad of strong support from Paris in the ongoing campaign against terrorism and extremism, the state-controlled Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency reported.

While acknowledging Pakistans efforts at battling extremism, the visiting dignitary vowed France would help the South Asian country fight the menace effectively. He also showed solidarity of the government and people of Pakistan over the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

The two leaders discussed the situation in Afghanistan and along the Pak-Afghan border against the backdrop of last weeks meeting between President Hamid Karzais and his Pakistani counterpart, according to APP.

Later in the day, the French foreign minister met with Caretaker Prime Minister Muhammadmian Soomro. Calling terrorism a global challenge, Kouchner stressed greater international efforts to fight the scourge in all its manifestations.

France was willing to assist Pakistan in investigating the shooting of the iconic female politician, he said. Soomro replied the death of Benazir Bhutto was a tragic incident and a great shock for the Pakistani nation. A probe was underway to track down the assassin, he said, adding Islamabad would seek French cooperation in case of need.
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Uruzgan village cleared of militants, claims Coalition
KBUL, Jan 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, backed by foreign troops, have ousted insurgents from the Yakhdan village of Shahidi Hasas district in the restive Uruzgan province, the US-led Coalition said.

"ANA soldiers planned and led the multi-day operation along with police and Coalition forces to disrupt major enemy supply lines in Uruzgan to prevent their freedom of movement and to ultimately disrupt their operations in this area," the US military said.

In a statement mailed to Pajhwok Afghan News late Tuesday night, the US-led forces said intelligence reports indicated the Shahidi Hasas district served as a major corridor for the transportation of fighters and weapons between the provinces north and south of Uruzgan. 

The Coalition added Yakhdan village was a major transit point along the route, with the militants suspected of using the area as a major command and control hub for illegal activities.

During a security patrol on the outskirts of the village, Coalition forces were attacked with a variety of weapons from reinforced fighting positions in the hills overlooking the village. The ANSF-led force immediately returned fire, forcing the fighters to retreat to defensive positions in the Yakhdan Bazaar.

According to the press release, before entering the village sitting along the banks of the Sakar River, women and children were observed leaving as ANSF identified enemy safe houses and fighting positions. Three fighters, clad in womens clothes and wearing burqas, were seen carrying weapons out of the village.

A Combined Joint Task Force-82 spokesman said: This is a common tactic used by the insurgents. The enemy knew that Coalition forces would not engage women and children, observed Army Maj. Chris Belcher.

When the forces entered the bazaar area, the rebels opened fire from multiple directions. As the battle escalated, ANSF responded with direct and indirect fire in addition to requesting air support, which dropped precision-guided munitions to eliminate the insurgent fighting positions.

Secondary explosions were observed indicating an enemy weapons cache was also destroyed, the Coalition said, adding the combined force was previously attacked during a security patrol near the villages of Pasaw and Dosang.

ANSF will continue to provide security and conduct operations throughout the winter, Belcher said. With fighters removed from Yakhdan, villagers can return to their valley homes while ANSF drive insurgents from Uruzgan.
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Measles leaves over 20 children dead in Musa Qala
LASHKARGAH/KABUL, Jan 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Measles has left a number of children dead in the restive Musa Qala district of the southern Helmand province, residents and officials said on Wednesday. Many others are down with the contagious disease.

Confirming the breakout of the viral infection in the town, a former Taliban bastion, Dr Roohullah Mazloom told Pajhwok Afghan News the affected children were faced with great problems as vaccine and drugs for measles were not easily available in the district.

Since the arrival of the harsh Afghan winter, the highly communicable ailment has claimed more than 20 lives, with many more minors down with it. A Lanay Nawa dweller urged the authorities concerned to rush emergency medical aid to the victims. Shah Agha stressed efforts at preventing the disease from spreading to other areas.

Regay area resident Sanaullah, who lost a nephew to the contagion three days back, said the child had red blotches all over his body before suffering from a fatal fever. He also requested the government to ensure the dispatch of the requisite medicines to the district before it was too late to control the measles spread.

Helmand Public Health Director Dr Inayatullah Ghafari, unaware of the epidemic, said: We have sent two tonnes of medicines to the area, where a government-run clinic remains open to treat visitors.

The government has received no complaint about the measles outbreak, according to the director, who said inhabitants with any medical problem could visit the Musa Qala Hospital to seek advice and treatment from doctors.

In Kabul, a Public Health Ministry official also denied receiving any report about the flare-up in Musa Qala. I dont think there is such an illness in the district. A team of experts will be sent to the area to assess the situation if we are formally provided with a report, Dr Ahmed Shah observed.

Cough, coryza (runny nose), conjunctivitis (red eyes) and a fever for at least three days are among the classical symptoms of measles, doctors explain. The fever may soar to 104 Fahrenheit, with red spots visible inside the victims mouth.

The characteristic measles rash erupts several days after the fever attacks the child. It starts on the head before spreading to cover most of the body, often causing itching. The rash is said to stain, changing colour from red to dark brown before disappearing.

Research shows the measles is a highly contagious airborne pathogen which spreads primarily via the respiratory system. The virus is transmitted in respiratory secretions and can be passed from person to person via aerosol droplets containing virus particles, such as those produced by a coughing patient.

After several days of intense fighting in early December, Taliban guerrillas withdrew from the town they controlled for more than 10 months. The insurgents said they left the district to avoid civilian casualties in fierce clashes, touched off by an Afghan-NATO offensive.

Akram Noorzai & Zarghona Salehi
Translated & edited by S. Mudassir Ali Shah
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