Scores of Kabul poor die of rabid dogs biting

AP, June 3, 1999

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Packs of rabid dogs roaming parts of war-ravaged Kabul have been attacking people and infecting them with rabies, a Red Cross doctor said Wednesday.

In the last five days, Dr. Allah Nawaz told The Associated Press that 24 people, many of them children, have been treated at the hospital for rabies.

In nearby Ghazni province, where treatment has not been available, 90 people died of rabies last month, he said. "The rich people can go to Pakistan for treatment, but the poor people have no choice… all they can do is stay here and wait to die," Said Dr Ghulam Sakhi, a physician in the health ministry's veterinary department.

Officials at the ministry of public health in Kabul are calling it an emergency. They didn't have figures, but said that many of the bite victims have died, either because they arrived at hospitals too late for treatment or were unable to buy the medicine.

At most hospitals in Kabul, except for the two being operated by the International Red Cross, medicines have to be purchased by the patient. The Taliban's health ministry does not have the money to stock the hospitals.

One ampule of the vaccine costs $18. In Afghanistan where a government employee earns the equivalent of $10 a month, paying $18 and ampule is prohibitive.

Entire neighborhoods of Kabul lie in ruins, devastated by relentless fighting between rival Islamic factions who threw out the communists from power in 1992.

When the Taliban Islamic army took control of the capital in 1996 and the fighting inside the city came to a virtual end many of the city's poorest

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