- ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (PNS)
- A rare skin disease, Lieshmaniasis, has broken out in Kurram Agency
through Afghan refugees living in a camp in where the World Health
has reported found 738 infected cases, mostly in children under the age
- Speaking at a news conference, WHO Spokesperson Lori
Hieber-Girardet said the agency is working with local health authorities
in the NWFP to control the outbreak of Lieshmaniasis. WHO feared, "If
proper remedial measures are not taken to contain the disease through
efforts of the concerned offices and NGOs, the situation may lead to
- She said these cases are amongst the local population
and are in addition to 1,500 cases in Afghan refugee camps. The WHO
said at least 72% of the affected are unable to access medical
- To a question, Lori said Lieshmaniasis could be
cured, provided treatment is available. "The situation is further
complicated by the fact that very few local physicians can differentiate
between Lieshmaniasis and other skin diseases that may mimic the skin
of Lieshmaniasis, she warned.
- The WHO official noted that currently, the drug used
in the treatment of Lieshmaniasis, Injection Glucantime, is not registered
in Pakistan. She said the agency has requested its headquarters to provide
emergency supplies of the drug for the local population and Afghans living
- At the same time, Lori said the UNHCR would import the
drug under a one-time license provided by the Federal Ministry of Health
for Afghan refugees in camps.
- Giving a background, the UN official said Lieshmaniasis
is a rare disease in Pakistan, but in November 2001 the provincial health
department of NWFP notified WHO of a large number of cases of Lieshmaniasis
in several villages of Kurram agency, one of the afghan's refugees hosting
- "To help NWFP province treat the cases and to
further spread of the disease, WHO has sponsored a rapid survey in Kurram
agency. In addition to the new cases, the survey also found 289 cured
- WHO found the disease evenly distributed amongst both
the genders, and "on the average each case has contracted the disease
within last 6 months." Lieshmaniasis is a disease caused by the sand
fly. "When the sand fly bites the skin, the organism is transmitted
to the blood," explained the spokesperson.
- There are two types of the disease: urban and rural.
The most common type in Pakistan is called urban or Anthroponotic
The disease is transmitted from humans to humans. Rural or Zoonotic
comes from the interaction of man with animal. The disease can manifest
itself in two forms, Cutaneous and Systemic Lieshmaniasis.
- Lori said Cutaneous Lieshmaniasis, can cause a lesion
anywhere on the body but the most likely sites for these lesions are the
exposed parts. "The lesion rapidly gives rise to a harsh-looking large
ulcer. The ulcer frequently eats the tissues and even when the ulcer heals,
it leads to permanent disfigurement," she told reporters.
- While Systemic Lieshmaniasis, is more rare and invariably
fatal if not treated promptly. It affects the internal body organs
spleen and liver, she said.
- The WHO official said the duration of the treatment
from 8 to 90 days depending on the severity of the disease. She said
leaves permanent scarring which socially stigmatises those who contract
- To control the spread of Lieshmaniasis, WHO suggested
that preventive measures similar to those used against malaria should be
used. The agency also suggested use of residual insecticide spray and bed
- Meanwhile, UNHCR Spokesman Yusuf Hassan said during the
weekend, the number of Afghans massed at the Chaman border post has risen
sharply to 13,000. He said the refugees have been stuck on a desolate
place where temperatures drop below zero at night without proper shelter
or adequate assistance for days.
- UNHCR called for urgent help for the vulnerable "so
that they can receive medical care.
- Yusuf believed, "To avert a humanitarian disaster,
we are urging the authorities to allow us to move the vulnerable especially
women and children to refugee camp where they can be assisted."
- At the same time, UNHCR security mission has given go
ahead to the agency to resume work in the Old Bagzai refugee camp in Kurram
agency. UNHCR will resume relocation of refugees to Old Bagzai today, said