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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 15:49 GMT
Rabies fears in Kabul
Mother and her premature child
Kabul's hospitals are said to be in a 'dire state'
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the increased number of stray dogs in the city is leading to fears of an outbreak of rabies, although there have been no cases as yet.

They don't come out so much in the day, because they tend to get kicked around

Kabul resident
A WHO spokeswoman said they were providing vaccinations to local hospitals as a precautionary measure.

"The number of stray dogs in Kabul has increased, as it often does in conflict situations and this poses a potentially serious health risk for the local population," Lori Hieber-Giradet told reporters in Islamabad.

Unless treated, rabies cases have a fatality rate of 99%.

The sound of large packs of dogs howling at night is a regular feature of life in Kabul.

"They don't come out so much in the day, because they tend to get kicked around," said one resident.

No ambulances

The WHO also said Kabul's hospitals are suffering from a serious fuel shortage, as well as a lack of staff, especially midwives.

Spokeswoman Saeed Yusuf said the city's five hospitals were in a dire state.

Staff had not been paid for five months and there was a "critical shortage" of qualified health personnel, she said, adding that there was no ambulance service at all.

"Available drugs are also at a minimal level," she said.

Ms Hieber-Giradet said the WHO was particularly concerned about outbreaks of pneumonia with the onset of winter and of water-borne diseases resulting from poor sanitation.

See also:

20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's huge rebuilding task
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Inside an Afghan hospital
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kabul's one-eyed lion soldiers on
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