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Poisoned by make-up.

Spurious cosmetics are widely sold in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Public Health says local companies produce only 5 percent of cosmetics sold country-wide. The rest comes from neighbours like Pakistan, China, Iran, India and Turkey.

Markets in Kabul neighbourhoods like Mandawi, Chendawal, Kota e Sangi, Khairkhana are popular with shoppers looking for make-up and other skin products.

Abdul Khaleq Zazi Watantdost, the head of the medicine importersC[bar] union in Kabul told Killid that most cosmetics sold in Afghanistan are fakes. He further added that due to lack of laws on cosmetics, most traders import expired and fake materials into the country. According to Watantdost, since there are no laws to control fakes, it cannot be prevented.

Nasir Qalawal is a cosmetics wholesaler in Hamza market in Mandawi. He confirms that none of the traders import original cosmetics. The markets are flooded with fakes, and shopkeepers have no way of knowing, he claims.

Ahmad Sohail who has a store in a city supermarket says he sources his products from relatives in neighbouring countries and he does not guarantee the quality. Ghulam Hazrat sells cosmetics on a wheelbarrow.

Abdul Khlil Khakzad, head of Ibn e Sina Pharmacy institute agrees there are no rules and conditions for producing, stocking or selling cosmetics. He said there are ongoing discussions to review laws related to medicines and health products, and the drafts would be sent to the Ministry of Justice.

"Rules regarding cosmetics will be included in the laws for medicine and health products. It will provide for monitoring the products in the market," he told Killid. Currently, no company is registered with the Ministry of Health for the import of cosmetics.

No awareness

The government should also frame rules on how to store cosmetics, says dermatologist Dr Fawzia Kabuli who teaches in Kabul Medical University. Direct contact with the sun creates chemical reactions in cosmetics, which when applied can have serious side effects on the skin, she says. Dr Kabuli thinks Afghan women spend at least 2,000 Afs (30 USD) a month on cosmetics.

Watantdost admits there is no awareness among either cosmetic merchants or consumers about the importance of ensuring the products adhere to expiry dates.

However, Khakzad, the head of Ibn e Sina Pharmacy Institute, says the Ministry of Health has laid down guidelines for the distribution and packaging of medicines and cosmetics.

Interviews with customers raise more questions about the quality of cosmetics sold in the market. Laila Fakoori says she always bought cosmetics from street sellers. But she has paid a price; there are dark spots on her face. "Probably from expired and poor quality products," she says. Fakoori has started buying from a big store in a supermarket, she confides. "There is still no guarantee," she adds.

Rukhsar Rezayee, who was buying cosmetics in a store, says she has a friend who broke out in a severe rash on her face and needed to take expert advice from a dermatologist. According to Dr Kabuli, half the women with bad skin on the streets of Kabul were suffering from the ill-effects of fake cosmetics. Much of the damage is not visible. Nail varnish and lipstick, which is widely applied, can contain traces of lead and other toxic metals, such as cadmium and aluminium, which have been linked to nervous system damage and foetal abnormalities.

Neither the ministries of health nor finance have figures for cosmetic imports. Nasir Qalaqal, wholesale trader in cosmetics in Hamza market, Mandawi, imports cosmetics worth 400,000 USD annually. No one has any idea how many wholesale dealers there are.

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Publication:Killid Weekly
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jun 14, 2016
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