A medical team from the World Health Organization has just returned from a 10 day fact finding trip to Afghanistan. In its report, the team says Afghanistan urgently needs essential drugs.

The WHO team says, at one time, 750 people worked in the pharmaceutical business in Afghanistan. Now only 90 do, and most of them have not been paid for six months.

Guitelle Baghdadi of WHO's Essential Drugs Program was part of the team that went to Afghanistan. She says that since Afghanistan has a limited ability to manufacture drugs, most are imported from neighboring countries, and not all of them are of good quality. "What we found is that - both for the public and the private sector - the drugs we find on the market are of low quality, most of them," she said. "Even brand-name products, which are expensive, are found with low quality on the markets. No expiration date, no batch number on the drugs that you find there."

Ms. Baghdadi says the doctors use various methods to compensate for the poor quality of the drugs. "What we came across is that many physicians, knowing that the drugs are not that effective, prescribe either double prescriptions - for instance, instead of prescribing a 100 milligram [dose] of such-and-such a drug, they would just prescribe a double dose - or they will give two drugs having the same therapeutic effect to make sure that the treatment they are giving to their patients will be effective," said Guitelle Baghdadi.

The health agency is appealing for $25 million for one year. With that money, it says, it can provide good quality drugs to Afghanistan's 20 million people.

$20 million would go to provide essential drugs needed to fight off infectious diseases and other illnesses resulting from malnutrition. The rest of the money would be used to set up medical stores at the central and provincial levels.