UNDP Joins Fight Against Tuberculosis in Afghanistan

Musa Khan Panahi smiles as he recovers from multi-drug-resistant Tuberculosis at the UNDP-supported TB hospital in Kabul. Photo: UNDP Afghanistan / 2016 / Fakhri

Kabul, 02 August 2016 – Fifty-year-old Musa Khan Panahi wears a smile of hope because he’s reclaiming a life he nearly lost. Meanwhile, Muhammad Rustam, an emaciated bedridden teenager, struggles with his health at a hospital on the western outskirts of Kabul.

Both Musa Khan and Rustam live with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. They are among 345 patients at this UNDP-supported hospital, which is the only facility in Afghanistan equipped to treat multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB.

Symptoms of TB include coughing, fever and night sweats. If diagnosed correctly, patients can be given a six-month course of “first-line” treatment and will have only a 3.5 percent chance of developing MDR TB.

But if a patient is misdiagnosed or given the wrong medicine, or if they don’t complete the full course of antibiotics, they will eventually need an eight-month course of “second-line” drugs. At this point, their chance of developing MDR TB shoots up to 20.5 percent.

Musa Khan had been ill for well over 15 months in Mazar-e-Sharif before he was referred to the hospital in Kabul. After three months of treatment, he has started to show signs of improvement and can even exercise in the hospital grounds.

“Now I am much better,” he says. “I couldn't walk before and wasn’t even able to speak.”

Unlike Musa Khan, Muhammad Rustam is still struggling. “When I want to walk, I feel out of breath and can’t continue,” he says. “And when I eat, I feel a severe pain in the throat and then in all my body— and a sort of stabbing in my chest.”

But Rustam is just at the start of his treatment and hopes to get better. The full course of MDR TB treatment takes two years to complete.

Now UNDP and the Global Fund are aiming to bring this hope to even more people across Afghanistan. Together with the government, we are building TB hospitals in Jalalabad, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, with a combined capacity to treat around 600 patients.

Even though Musa Khan complains that his drugs can sometimes make him dizzy, he feels blessed that he ended up at the hospital in Kabul. “I ask patients like me to get admitted here as soon as they can,” he says. “Right now, this is the only place that offers proper treatment.”

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