Afghanistan’s maternal mortality and safe childbirth crisis

Amid worries about the risks faced by pregnant women in Afghanistan, the United Nations has set up family health houses to make sure women have safe childbirth. However, experts believe that the healthcare infrastructure in Afghanistan is not capable of ensuring safe childbirth for women.

Women in Afghanistan are exposed to irreparable harms, and among them, pregnant women bear the greatest cost for the current situation. General reports on the status of mothers in Afghanistan indicate that this country has allocated the highest maternal mortality rate among Asian countries.

The United Nations Population Fund announced in March 2022 that out of every 100,000 births in Afghanistan, 638 mothers lose their lives during childbirth, a figure unseen in any other Asian country. The organization stated in its report on the occasion of International Women’s Day that $250 million is needed to address the situation of pregnant women in Afghanistan.

It is still unclear whether this requested amount has been provided by donor countries to the United Nations or not, but Afghanistan still holds the highest maternal mortality rate among Asian countries. The continuation of this situation has led to widespread concerns, and public discussions indicate that women’s lack of access to healthcare facilities is one of the most serious concerns in Afghanistan.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recently announced the establishment of 25 family health houses in Uruzgan province, stating that “quality healthcare services for pregnant women can ensure safe childbirth.”

This office wrote on its social platform X, Monday, February 26, that with the financial assistance of the European Union, these family health units have been established to ensure that women have access to skilled care.

Social issues experts believe that the healthcare system in Afghanistan lacks the necessary infrastructure to support pregnant women because, according to their estimate, most doctors and healthcare workers have left Afghanistan, and alongside this, people are grappling with a severe food crisis.

A public health professor who also has experience in dealing with public health crises, on the condition of anonymity, told Khaama Press that these two factors (the exodus of healthcare workers and poverty) have paralyzed the healthcare system in Afghanistan.

He argues that establishing family health units may help women in some villages, but Afghanistan has more than 400 districts, with hundreds of villages registered in each district, stating, “If all pregnant women in Afghanistan are supposed to be covered by UN support, thousands of family health units must be established.”

This university professor criticizes the performance of the Taliban administration and the United Nations regarding support for pregnant women, suggesting that more effective strategies need to be pursued. He proposes that the enrollment of girls in medical fields should be increased, and the United Nations should concentrate its support programs on educating girls in healthcare sectors in all provinces of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s maternal mortality and safe childbirth crisis