From the Worldwide Faith News archives

MCC and Medair treating TB patients in Kabul

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Tue, 31 Dec 2002 16:26:52 -0800

Mennonite Central Committee News release
December, 31, 2002

Larry Guengerich
(717) 859-1152 #282

KABUL, Afghanistan --	At the gated entrance to the National Tuberculosis
Institute, a one-room guardhouse has been converted into a tiny TB treatment

Bombing and rocket fire badly damaged the institute as the city repeatedly
became caught up in wars over the past 23 years. Now the guardhouse serves as
makeshift clinic while the main building is being repaired.

The guardhouse TB treatment center is run by Medair, an international aid
agency, which also  administers four other TB treatment centers and a TB
laboratory in Kabul.  Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has supported
work with TB here since 1997.  Most recently MCC has provided food for TB

Kowki, a 55-year-old widow, makes her way to the guardhouse each morning from
partially-rebuilt home nearby.	The free antibiotics and food she receives
have been a blessing to Kowki and her family, who are struggling to remake 
lives in a rubble-filled city.	Kowki's family moved home to Kabul in
after fleeing the city for Iran six years ago.

TB cases in Kabul increased over the past summer, as families returned from
refugee camps in Iran, Pakistan and elsewhere in Afghanistan. Due to
overcrowding and malnourishment, infectious diseases like TB spread easily in
the camps.  Now the returnees need treatment.

TB is a bacterial infection that starts in the lungs and spreads to other
organs.  It can be deadly but is curable through a combination of antibiotics
taken over eight months.

Care from private clinics is unaffordable for many locals, say Medair staff.
The temptation is to purchase one or two months' worth of TB medications,
cease treatment when symptoms fade. The risk is almost certain relapse and
possible immunity to the antibiotics.

Even Medair patients, who receive free medicines, don't always carry through
with the eight-month treatment. Life for most returnees is chaotic and
difficult. Some have sold their antibiotics for cash.

As an incentive for sticking with the treatment, Medair gives monthly food
packages to TB patients who faithfully take the antibiotics each day. The
packages include wheat, beans and oil shipped by MCC through the Canadian
Foodgrains Bank. Medair currently provides food for between 350 and 400 TB
patients in Kabul.  The nutritious food helps to bolster their health.

Some of the MCC-provided wheat is baked into bread for women staying at the
Medair TB center in Kabul's Karte Parwan District. At this center, 18 women 
outside the city receive free medicine, meals and housing. Those who are
bedridden are allowed to have one relative stay with them.  Some bring young
children along.

Nosia, 25, is from northern Afghanistan. She has suffered from TB on and 
off for
about three years and "bought medicines as we could afford them," she says.
Nosia's coughing and overall well-being have improved during her six-month
at this center. Her 3-year-old son has been staying with her, and her husband
visits every 10 or 15 days.  With continued improvement, she will soon be
to return home.

The Medair treatment program includes lessons on how to keep from spreading
infectious patients shouldn't share plates with others and should cover their
mouths	when they cough or sneeze; mothers should cover their noses and
while breastfeeding.

Medair is working with the National Institute on a country-wide TB control
program. Many Afghan children today, especially in urban areas, are
against TB.  Meanwhile, the Japanese government is funding repairs to the
institute building.

MCC plans to ship additional food for Afghan TB patients in 2003.

More information about MCC's work in Afghanistan can be found at the


Maria Linder-Hess is a writer for MCC Communications.

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