Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
A UAE research institute has developed a breakthrough treatment for COVID-19 which could be a game-changer in the global fight against the virus.
The Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center (ADSCC) has developed an innovative method which involves extracting stem cells from a patient’s blood and reintroducing them into the lungs via inhalation of a mist, regenerating lung cells and preventing the immune system from overreacting.
The treatment has already successfully undergone an initial phase of clinical trials – with 73 patients making full recoveries without any adverse side effects. The recipients were moderately or severely ill before treatment, with many intubated in an ICU.
More trials are being conducted and we should have a clearer understanding of the treatment’s potential in the coming weeks, but it could have a significant impact on our ability to live with the virus until a vaccine is available.
The ADSCC effort is one of around 60 significant studies in the UAE aiming to produce COVID-19 treatments and improve testing, in line with the UAE Government’s determination to mobilize the country’s resources towards overcoming the virus.
A third of Afghanistan will face food shortages, warns Save the Children.
At a time when Afghan children need adequate daily nutrition to help strengthen their immune systems, the price of basic foods is rising under the lockdown, making it harder for families to feed themselves.
“A third of the population – including 7.3 million children – will face food shortages in April and May due to the current pandemic,” Save the Children said in a press release.
Just in the past month, the price of wheat flour and cooking oil in Afghanistan’s main city markets have increased by up to 23 percent as supply is unable to meet demand, while the cost of rice, sugar and pulses have increased by between 7 and 12 percent, according to the World Food Programme.
While food prices are increasing, the financial ability of daily wage labourers to buy food is decreasing, as casual work dries up because of nationwide restrictions. A large portion of the Afghan workforce relies on the informal sector, with no safety nets when work is scarce.
According to to Save the Children, even before the global COVID-19 crisis, the total number of children who needed some form of humanitarian support this year stood at 5.26 million[ii], making war-torn Afghanistan one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child.
The most recent nutrition surveys in Afghanistan show that an estimated two million children under five will suffer from the most life-threatening form of extreme hunger annually.
“The effects of the lockdown coupled with one of the weakest health systems in the world – Afghanistan has just 0.3 doctors per 1,000 people – means malnourished and sick children are much less likely to get the life-saving treatment they need to survive,” the press release added.
Afghanistan, beset by a poor healthcare system, malnutrition, war and other vulnerabilities, likely is facing a “health disaster” from the coronavirus, a watchdog report to the U.S. Congress warns.
The report released late on Thursday by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko could heighten concerns among U.S. officials and lawmakers that the pandemic threatens to derail stalled U.S.-led peace efforts.
The spread of COVID-19 already has significantly impacted Afghanistan, the report said, from complicating the peace initiative to forcing border crossing closures that have disrupted commercial and humanitarian deliveries.
“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities – a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict – make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report said.
Rising food prices in the impoverished country likely will worsen the crisis, Sopko said in a letter accompanying the report.