Italy pledges $300,000 to fight Afghan disease

KABUL (Reuters) – Italy’s government has pledged $300,000 to help combat a disease outbreak in western Afghanistan that has killed 17 people since February, the Afghan Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The pledge follows an appeal made by the Ministry of Public Health to the Italian embassy in Kabul in March.

The disease, which broke out in the district of Gulran in February, is a veno-occlusive disease caused by a toxic alkaloid contained in the seeds of heliotropium, an invasive plant that spreads among wheat cultivations, the Healthy Ministry said.

The disease has killed 17 people since February and has affected 191 people with 38 more suspected cases, it said.

The Italians head a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Herat.

The $300,000 will be used by the PRT to upgrade medical facilities in the province and to analyze the transmission mechanisms and effects of the disease. Critical patients will also be transferred to Italy for treatment, the ministry said.

Italy has around 2400 troops in Afghanistan who serve under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

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