An official ceremony was held in Astana with the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan, UN Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan, Mikael Friberg-Storey, Executive Director of the Pandemic Fund, Priya Basu, representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), Skender Sila, and representatives of diplomatic missions in attandance, according to the press service of the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan. Recently the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan and the WHO signed an agreement for a grant of $46 million. The terms provide Kazakhstan with a country grant in the amount of $19 million, and multi-country grant in the amount of $27 million for three years. Aside from Kazakhstan, 35 countries of the WHO European Region received grant funding for the development of medicines and healthcare systems. In total, according to the World Bank, the Pandemic Control Fund received 179 applications from 133 countries around the world. About 30% of the grant funds went to projects from countries in Africa. The specialized agency said that this money will be used to improve the healthcare system in Kazakhstan, namely the development of epidemiological surveillance, laboratory security, border control, early detection, and response and training of medical personnel. The WHO's country office in Astana will oversee the implementation of the grant in Kazakhstan and provide general technical support to the Ministry of Health. The Pandemic Fund was established in September 2022. It's considered to be the first multilateral financing mechanism to provide long-term, grant-based financial assistance to low- and middle-income countries to improve their preparedness for future pandemics. By the middle of last year, the fund had raised $2 billion in seed capital from 25 nations and philanthropic organizations.
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Central Asian countries are experiencing outbreaks of various diseases, including seasonal ones such as influenza, and non-seasonal illnesses including measles and hepatitis. First on the list is Kazakhstan, where an outbreak of measles has been circulating since November 2023. In that month alone, it affected 17,000 people, 82% of whom were children. In December, that figure grew to 19,000 cases. For the most part, the government bemoaned the fact that the population was reluctant to get vaccinated, imploring people to do so as a matter of urgency. However, opponents of vaccination actively expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of the Indian vaccine purchased by the authorities. In early 2024, the Republican Center for Immunoprophylaxis of Kyrgyzstan reported an outbreak of the same disease. As of February 6th, 2,436 cases had been identified. Health organizations in the country have expressed their intention to strengthen routine immunization, vaccinate those who come into contact with sick people, and increase preventive vaccination coverage with a focus on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. Kyrgyzstan also experienced a measles crisis in 2023. During that year, 7,000 cases of the disease were detected in the country - of which nine cases in children proved fatal. At the same time, Uzbekistan was hit by another disease - Hepatitis A. In just a month and a half in 2024, 9,507 children contracted the disease. According to data released by the Sanitary and Epidemiological Committee, 365,167 children have received the hepatitis vaccine in the past 12 months, which prevents transmission of the virus in 94-98% of cases. Uzbekistan has also supported Turkmenistan, with medicines, where there is a different outbreak; the flu has already taken the lives of 33 children, as the Times of Central Asia has previously reported. Currently, it's children aged five to seven who are most at risk. However, after a sharp outbreak in which doctors lacked medicines and hospital beds for new and returning patients, the incidence rates are now on a downward trajectory. In addition to Turkmenistan, the flu has also hit Tajikistan. According to the Ministry of Health there, pneumonia - which has symptoms very similar to Covid-19 - has increased dramatically, prompting confused reports that the "Coronavirus is coming back." However, medical officials refuted this, saying the country is simply experiencing a seasonal increase in the incidence of influenza type a/(H1N1)pdm09, which often leads to pneumonia.
Thirty-three children have died in Turkmenistan due to the flu epidemic, and the majority of those children had congenital heart and respiratory diseases, according to a report by the Chronicle of Turkmenistan news portal. Children aged five to seven made up the majority of cases. The flu crisis has since abated, but only after hospitals experienced overcrowding when the pandemic was at its peak and a ban came into force against placing patients from Etrap (the territorial unit of Turkmenistan) in city hospitals. In the intensive care and therapy departments of hospitals, plastic-lined departments were installed where patients with influenza were treated. The epidemic had exposed a shortage of medications and medical supplies, according to comments made by the leaders of various medical facilities. Thanks to Uzbekistan's assistance, which included a large shipment of medications, this shortage was addressed. Officials mandated the equipping of one or two rooms with state-of-the-art resuscitation equipment in each hospital department. Ashgabat and the surrounding areas saw a high incidence of influenza in December and the beginning of January 2024. Many patients were sent home for treatment, because the capital’s hospitals were overcrowded. The majority of home remedies, however, appear to have increased infection rates.
On February 1, 2024, Kyrgyzstan's first free kidney transplant was successfully performed on a 22-year-old girl in a Bishkek hospital. However, about 2,500 Kyrgyz people still have to receive dialysis while they wait for a new organ. All kidney transplants will now be paid for by the state, Kyrgyz health minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev said. The Health Ministry said that each patient undergoing dialysis must purify his or her blood of toxic substances several times a week. In the past, many did the procedure at their own expense. The price for three dialysis procedures is about $100, and not every Kyrgyzstani can afford it. Nor can many afford a kidney transplant operation. The state previously covered part of the costs when a person had a disability -- but now the authorities plan to help all those with the most severe kidney issues. "We planned to conduct 50 free surgeries at first. However, after the free surgery the other day, I talked to the president. He said that we should conduct free surgeries for all the needy 2,500 patients who are now receiving hemodialysis. If we perform the surgeries, the money now spent on hemodialysis will be a good saving for the budget," Beishenaliyev said. One kidney transplant operation costs the state $7,500, while dialysis costs $14,000-15,000 per patient per year, he said. It will be more economical for the budget than spending on hemodialysis every time, the minister calculated. Kyrgyz president Sadyr Japarov has taken a personal interest in the issue. The head of state said that 50 patients have already found donors, underwent a full medical examination and are preparing for surgery. "The first benefit is to help our citizens. The second is saving money. There are patients who have been receiving hemodialysis for 10-15 years," the president said. In an interview with the state news agency Kabar, Japarov said that a kidney transplant abroad costs $25,000-$50,000, and that he knows this firsthand because about 10 years ago his brother had such an operation in another country. As a result, his family paid $70,000, including travel expenses and post-operative rehabilitation procedures. Earlier this year, the head of state signed a law on the protection of citizens' health, according to which private and public hospitals in Kyrgyzstan can now perform organ transplants -- provided that the patient is a relative of the donor. Turkish nephrologists and kidney transplant specialists have come to Kyrgyzstan to help develop this field of medicine. Also, a group of Kyrgyz doctors is currently undergoing training in Turkey.
Uzbekistan has adopted a law focused on the pharmaceutical industry, meaning that on July 1, 2024, the country will introduce the GVP (Good Pharmacovigilance Practice) standard already in place in the European Union (EU). GVP standards relate to monitoring the safety of, reducing the risks from, and increasing the benefits of medicines. It will therefore become mandatory for wholesale medicine distributors to have certificates of compliance in the pharmaceutical industry. The law for chain pharmacies will come into effect in 2025, and for all other pharmacies from 2026. The law also tightens the rules for storing medicines in warehouses. Changes are also expected in the advertising of medicines, and from now on, the decision regarding any medicine's advertisements on television will be made by the Ministry of Health. Tougher measures for the pharmaceutical industry are rooted in the scandal caused by deaths from the "Doc-1 Max" cough syrup in 2023. In Uzbekistan, 69 children died and 18 were left disabled as a result of taking the medicine. Uzbekistan ranks among the first in the world in the number of pharmacies per capita, most of which are small outlets on the first floors of residential buildings. The new law may lead to the closure of thousands of pharmacies which fail to meet the new standards, and is likely to lead to an increase in the price of medicines. Pharmacy operators are already subject to strict requirements regarding pharmacy equipment, staff qualifications, and drug storage. According to the Agency for the Development of the Pharmaceutical Industry under the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan, the number of pharmacies in the country reached almost 16,000 in 2022. The country's pharmaceutical market is growing at a rate of 8-10% per year, making it one of the fastest growing in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Uzbekistan also has eight research institutes and centers, and the only plant in Central Asian specializing in the production of insulin.
As of today, more than 3,800 individuals in Kazakhstan are in urgent need of internal organ transplants, with 90 of them being children. Despite the pressing demand for transplantation, the current waiting list is moving slowly, leading the head of the Kazakhstan Khalkyna (To the People of Kazakhstan) foundation to propose changes to the country's laws. Specifically, the suggestion is to reinstate cadaveric donation, allowing the extraction of organs from deceased individuals without the need for explicit permission from their relatives. Bolat Zhamishev, the head of the foundation, expressed the urgency of amending transplantation and cadaveric donation laws during a conference conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. He emphasized the need to move both the government and the public to address the shortcomings, as Kazakhstan lags in organ donation rates. Zhamishev highlighted that many individuals awaiting transplants have to rely on organs from foreign countries, particularly those where permission from relatives is not a requisite. The financial constraints faced by those seeking organs from abroad have led individuals to seek assistance from Kazakhstan Khalkyna. However, due to the substantial costs associated with organ transplantation, the foundation's resources are insufficient to support all of those in need. Health Minister of Kazakhstan, Azhar Giniyat, acknowledged that the issue of transplantology is widespread globally, but emphasized that it extends beyond a medical problem, delving into moral and ethical realms. Giniyat stressed the importance of raising public awareness and readiness to consider organ donation after death. Giniyat disclosed her personal commitment to becoming a posthumous donor and shared that, to date, approximately 40,000 citizens have registered consent for their organs to be donated in the case of their death on an electronic government platform. Of this number, 15% have formally documented their consent. Over the past decade, Kazakhstan has conducted nearly 2,500 organ transplants. However, the country faced a setback last October when the authorities detained a group of individuals involved in illicit organ trading. The group, consisting of medical professionals and notaries, were engaged in the buying and selling of internal organs. A total of 22 people were detained, and eight instances of organ sales were identified, with transactions ranging from $13.200 to $22,000.