Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

“Many Afghans Lost to Hazards of Childbirth”

As reported in the Washington Post by Pamela Constable, Afghanistan is “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be born or to deliver a child.” The U.S. charity Save the Children reported recently that Afghanistan “has the world’s second-highest rate of newborn deaths, 60 per 1,000 births, and that one in six Afghan mothers – 20,000 a year – die during or after childbirth.”

Ms. Constable reports that, “although Afghanistan has had a stable, Western-backed government since late 2001 and foreign donors have spent tens of millions of dollars to improve health care, conditions still conspire to sabotage the chances of healthy and normal births.” Linda Bartlett, a physician and maternal and child health officer for UNICEF in Kabul says that, “it’s really as bad as it can get and still sustain a population.”

“The worst problem is lack of skilled staff,” said Nadra Hayat, director of maternal and infant health at the Public Health Ministry in Kabul. Ms. Constable reports that “delivering babies is traditionally done in Afghanistan by women, and many families do not want male doctors to treat their wives or daughters.”

Ms. Bartlett notes that “health care has improved significantly in some provinces, with new clinics built and staffed in large towns.” However, she says that the problem is at “two extremes: remote regions where medical help is dangerously scarce, and urban areas where hospitals can barely keep up with the population boom.”

While the influx of foreign aid has helped to improve many of the healthcare conditions, improvements still need to be made. “Basic supplies often run out and patients may be asked to privately purchase such items as intravenous drips.” Ms. Constable also reports that “Afghan and foreign aid agencies have focused on increasing the quantity and quality of midwives.” Ms. Constable reports that “in the past three years, a U.S.-funded program has trained hundreds of community midwives and a national midwives association has been formed.”

To read this article in full click here.


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