Boost diagnostic capacity for diarrheal disease to reduce infant mortality

With a history of ongoing war and population displacement, Afghanistan has one of the highest infant and under-five mortality rates in the world. Forty percent of childhood deaths are due to diarrheal diseases and septicemia.

Saving children from these preventable deaths requires data to guide policy and treatment decisions. However, the country lacks adequate diagnostic facilities to conduct routine surveillance or spectrum-of-disease surveys to obtain these data. 

Using an IANPHI research seed grant, the Afghan Public Health Institute is conducting a two-year collaborative research study on the spectrum of acute febrile illnesses and diarrhea in infants in Kabul. The project will enhance the diagnostic facilities at a Kabul teaching hospital and allow researchers to study the epidemiology of acute febrile illness and diarrhea in children and develop sustainable national surveillance. 

The project is a collaborative effort of the Afghan Public Health Institute, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Agha Khan Health Services, and U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit #3. 

Results will be important at both the policy and the clinical levels. With a better understanding of the causes and epidemiology of the most common infectious illnesses in infants, clinicians in this resource-poor setting will be able to provide more accurate diagnoses and more appropriate treatment to their patients. 

At the policy level, national treatment protocols and training materials will reflect the most recent information on prevalence and drug-resistance patterns for febrile and diarrheal illnesses. In the longer term, these changes will speed reductions in infant mortality and progress toward Afghanistan’s attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. 

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