The worst place to be a mother
Authorities are striving to improve health
conditions for women in Afghanistan,
where maternal mortality and female life
expectancy indicators are the worst in the
world, says a report.
According to the State of the World’s
Mothers 2011 report, published June last
year by NGO Save the Children, about 50
women die in childbirth each day in
Afghanistan. One in three is physically or
sexually abused and the average life
expectancy of women is 44.
It said that more than 85% of Afghan
women are illiterate, while 70% of schoolage
girls do not attend school for various
reasons – conservative parents, lack of
security, or fear for their lives.
Taking all indicators into consideration,
“Afghanistan is the worst country” to be a
mother, concluded the report, which
assessed 164 countries. Children in
Afghanistan, along with those in sub-
Saharan Africa, too have the highest risk of
death in the world. One child in five, the
report said, dies before reaching age five
meaning “every mother in Afghanistan is
likely to suffer the loss of a child”.
“Despite improvements and achievements,
we are still very concerned about maternal mortality in Afghanistan,”
Health Ministry spokesman Kargar
Norughli told IRIN. The ministry was
therefore giving “high priority to tackling
maternal mortality and morbidity”.
One strategy that has been adopted is
the training of birth attendants. “The
country is rapidly heading in the right
direction but [it] will take time to establish
the optimum human resource base to
satisfy the requirement for skilled birth
attendants to ensure that each pregnancy
and delivery receive appropriate,
timely and equitable care,” said Tahir
Ghaznavi of the UN Population Fund,
Some 750 professional midwives graduate
each year after 24 months of
training and the number was expected to
grow to 800 in 2012. “If one takes into
account the number of midwives graduating
in 2011, 2012 and 2013; some
2,300 midwives are expected to graduate
and join the existing midwives,” Ghaznavi told IRIN.
Clinics far away
Part of the problem, said the Health
Ministry’s Norughli, was that 85% of the population live 3-4 hours away from
healthcare facilities and 35% either live
too far from a healthcare centre or do
not have access to such a facility at all.
There is also a widespread lack of public
awareness about maternal care among
communities especially in rural areas, lack
of medical facilities available in remote
parts of the country, and poor roads or
Afghanistan is a land-locked, mountainous
country where in some places it can
take a day to travel on foot, or by donkey or
horse, from one district to the next.
Save the Children said only 14% of
births were attended by professional birth
attendants. Most women either deliver at
home with no help (their husbands being
reluctant to take them to a professional
birth attendant), or die on the way before
reaching a healthcare facility.
“The old tradition of giving birth before
an elderly, uneducated and unskilled woman
is still widely practised in some remote parts
of Afghanistan,” the report said.
State of the World’s Mothers 2011
of upload: 21st Jan 2012