Afghanistan: Mass fainting incidents reported in schools

A series of mass fainting incidents have been reported at schools in Afghanistan.

AFP says that the latest complaints have come from a high school in the central city of Bamyan, where at least 116 Afghan students, most of them girls, have been hospitalized.  The victims are aged between nine and 17 and described feeling week and dizzy after smelling a strange odor, reports News 24.  Some have vomited and fainted.

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"There is no life-threatening case among the students," the provincial hospital Mohammad Hamid Nazim is quoted as saying.  He added that he thought there were signs of poisoning, but he did not have the equipment needed to confirm this.

According to Voice of America, hundreds of female students across Afghanistan have complained about noticing strange smells in their schools in recent weeks.  Last week more then 120 girls from a school in northern Takhar province were rushed to hospital after fainting.

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Some officials have blamed Taliban insurgents, who are opposed to educating girls, while others have accused the Pakistani military spy agency of being involved in the incidents. Pakistan has dismissed the allegations “absurd and senseless,” the news service says.

Al Arabiya says the incidents could be "mass hysteria" quoting the New Zealand-based specialist Robert Bartholomew.  He argues that none of the affected students have died and there has been no evidence of poisoning.  Barthlomew says he collected more than 600 examples of similar cases in combat zones since 1965, including in the Palestinian territories in 1983 to Soviet Georgia in 1989 and Kosovo in 1990.  “The Afghan episode certainly fits the pattern,” he said.

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