Advice and guidance on the health needs of migrant patients from Afghanistan for healthcare practitioners.
If the patient is new to the UK:
- explain to them how the NHS works
- discuss how this compares to the healthcare system they’ve been used to
Ensure that all patients are up-to-date with the UK immunisation schedule.
Screen all new entrants, including children, for tuberculosis (TB).
Determine any risk factors for hepatitis B infection that may indicate the need for screening, because Afghanistan has a low prevalence.
Consider screening for hepatitis C, because Afghanistan has a considerably higher prevalence of hepatitis C than the UK.
Ask opportunistically about any travel plans the patient may have to visit friends and relatives in their country of origin, and see National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), or the Health Protection Scotland websites (TRAVAX and fitfortravel), for travel advice.
Be advised that there is a risk of malaria in some areas of Afghanistan.
Be advised that there is a risk of typhoid infection in Afghanistan.
Consider nutritional and metabolic concerns.
Find out more about children’s health.
The incidence of TB in Afghanistan is high (40 to 499 cases per 100,000), so:
- screen all new entrants (including children) for TB according to NICE guidelines
- refer to TB services promptly if screening is positive
- maintain long term vigilance for symptoms of TB even if initial screening is negative
- be aware that TB is a notifiable disease
Sexually transmitted infections and HIV
Take a sexual history, and:
- screen for STIs and HIV according to risk as specified in the UK national standards and guidelines
- test all sexually active patients under the age of 25 for chlamydia
Afghanistan has a low rate of HIV (≤1%), so:
- offer and recommend an HIV test if the patient:
- falls into a high risk group
- is newly registering in a high prevalence area
- be advised that national guidelines do not recommend routine consideration of HIV testing of infants and children who have recently arrived in the UK
Afghanistan has a low prevalence of hepatitis B, so:
- offer screening for hepatitis B to all pregnant women during each pregnancy
- immunise appropriately babies born to mothers who are hepatitis B positive, and follow-up accordingly
- be aware that the UK has a a universal infant immunisation programme for hepatitis B and a selective immunisation programme for higher risk groups
Afghanistan has a considerably higher prevalence of hepatitis C than the UK, so consider screening for hepatitis C.
Polio is endemic in Afghanistan, so:
- be alert for signs and symptoms of polio in anyone arriving from Afghanistan, and investigate as appropriate
- ensure all new entrants are brought up to date with the UK immunisation schedule, including polio vaccine as required
- See NaTHNaC for advice about polio vaccine requirements if patients are planning to travel back to Afghanistan, as specific recommendations are in place for long-term visitors (over 4 weeks) to Afghanistan
Travel plans and advice
Ask opportunistically about any travel plans the patient may have to visit friends and relatives in their country of origin, and see National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), or the Health Protection Scotland websites (TRAVAX and fitfortravel, for travel advice.
There is a risk of malaria in some areas of Afghanistan, due to P. falciparum and P. vivax, so:
- test any unwell patient who has travelled to-and-from affected areas of Afghanistan in the last year
- remember that malaria can be rapidly fatal
There is a risk of typhoid infection in Afghanistan, so:
- ensure that travellers to Afghanistan are offered typhoid immunisation and advice on prevention of enteric fever
- remember enteric fever in the differential diagnosis of illness in patients with a recent history of travel to-or-from Afghanistan
There is a risk of helminth infections in Afghanistan, including soil transmitted helminthiasis.
Reproductive health indicators
|Reproductive health indicator||UK||Afghanistan|
|Children per woman¹||2||7|
|Use of contraception²||82%||10.3%|
¹lifetime average ²by woman of reproductive age or partner
No data are available on:
- mammography screening rates
- cervical cancer screening rates
Nutritional and metabolic concerns
There is a moderate risk of anaemia in adults (estimated prevalence in non-pregnant women is 20 to 40%) and a high risk in pre-school children (estimated prevalence is > 40%) in Afghanistan, so:
- consider the possibility of anaemia in recently arrived migrants, particularly women and pre-school children
- test as clinically indicated
Consider the possibility of vitamin D deficiency in people who may be at risk due to:
- covering their body for cultural or religious reasons (lack of sunlight)
- skin colour
- diet (vegan or vegetarian)
There is a high risk of vitamin A deficiency in Afghanistan.
Health indicators and health care
WHO Global Health Observatory has a summary of health indicators and health care in Afghanistan.
Culture, politics and history
|Afghan Persian or Dari¹||50|
¹official; Dari functions as the lingua franca, although there is much bilingualism ²primarily Uzbek and Turkmen ³around 30, primarily Balochi and Pashai
Source: The World Factbook.
Source: The World Factbook.
Migration to the UK
There were almost 63,000 people from Afghanistan living in England and Wales at the time of the 2011 Census.
Source: Office for National Statistics © Crown Copyright 2014.