Women's Well-being Key to
Afghanistan's Future, UNFPA Leader Stresses
Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
Kabul, 25 April 2007 – “No nation can be developed
when women die while giving birth,” Thoraya Ahmed
Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations
Population Fund, declared today in an appeal for
increased international support for the well-being of
Mothers’ health was a key topic of discussion when
Ms. Obaid met with President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday.
The Afghan leader said that the country’s maternal
death rate was unacceptably high, and thanked UNFPA
for its help in addressing the crisis. Nearly one
woman dies for every 60 live births in Afghanistan,
and in some provinces the rate is four times higher.
President Karzai also voiced appreciation for the
Fund’s support of the country’s first full census,
scheduled for 2008. UNFPA is training Afghan staff,
offering technical support and mobilizing funds for
the effort, which aims to gather data vital to
national planning and reconstruction.
This morning, on the third day of her four-day
visit here, United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Obaid joined Health Minister Dr. Sayed Mohammed Amin
Fatemi in inaugurating a UNFPA-supported surgical
facility at Malalai Hospital to treat women suffering
from obstetric fistula. The devastating disability, a
consequence of obstructed labour without timely
medical assistance, is widespread in Afghanistan, but
no treatment was available before now.
The causes of fistula and maternal death are the
same: childbirth without skilled attendance or access
to emergency obstetric care, too often and starting
too young. Medical care is now more widely available
in Afghanistan than five years ago, but there
continues to be a critical shortage of female health
providers. Along with partner agencies, UNFPA is
helping to train midwives, and is supporting eight
maternity hospitals in three remote provinces.
At a press briefing on Monday, Ms. Obaid said that
birth spacing can “help mothers to become healthier,
devote more attention to the child and help ensure
that the mother doesn’t die when the child is born”.
Emphasizing these benefits, she suggested, can lead to
greater acceptance of family planning in a Muslim
society like Afghanistan’s. UNFPA is assisting the
Ministry of Public Health in promoting family
planning, and has established a logistics system to
ensure adequate supplies.
This afternoon, the UNFPA head took part in a panel
on women’s rights, along with the Minister of Women’s
Affairs, Husun Banor Ghazanfar, and others. She called
for stronger efforts to counter violence against women
by involving men in communities, sensitizing police
officers and providing support for the victims.