Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), a branch of international humanitarian organization that carries out relief operations across the world, says heart diseases in children have alarmingly increased in Afghanistan. A country-wide study conducted by ARCS shows most cases of heart disease in young children are reported from eastern Nangarhar province. The most commonplace disease is holes in the heart, which according to medical practitioners is a congenital heart defect. Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth and these defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart. According to officials in ARCS, the main cause of rise in heart-hole diseases is polluted environment and carelessness of pregnant women. Sarma Afzali, media officer in ARCS, says the disease has sharply increased in recent years. “ARCS assessment shows the disease has assumed alarming proportions, especially in Nangarhar province, and most of the patients have no access to medical care,” says Ms. Afzali. According to her, most of the families cannot afford the treatment, and they do not pay much attention to daughters who suffer from these ailments. “It is a largely patriarchal society here,” she says. The treatment of this disease costs more than 5,000 dollars and most of the families cannot put together such a huge sum of money. Recently, ARCS had suggested that the pilgrims going for Haj must donate 1000 Afs each for treatment of children suffering from heart ailments. Officials in ARCS say they plan to build a hospital for treatment of heart hole disease and they have already sent some health workers to Turkey for training. President Hamid Karzai, says a senior ARCS official, failed to keep his promise of paying one million USD for treatment of children afflicted with this disease. More than three thousand children suffering from heart-hole disease have been treated by ARCS in past six years. “But more needs to be done,” says a official of ARCS.
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