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Priority Needs to Be Given to Maternal Health in Afghanistan

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Sultan Aziz, Asia-Pacific Regional Director of UNFPA have// pressed the need for more investment in women's health in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. More endeavors are needed, in this war torn country, to improve the health of the women and children.

The UNFPA, in Afghanistan is trying to garner support and national consensus to encourage gender equity and women's empowerment and also promote the maternal and reproductive health of the women. Work is also needs to be done for HIV prevention.

Enhancement of women's health will have an overall effect on the Afghan country. According to Ms. Obaid 'We all know from many studies that women contribute greatly to their families and communities and that when women participate in the community and the family, that the country becomes much stronger.'

'In our work in Afghanistan and the overall strategy of the country, the big challenge facing human development in Afghanistan is to support women and girls so they can exercise their rights to education, to health, to decent work, to live free from violence, coercion and discrimination, and to participate fully in public life,' she added.

The UNFPA is working with the Ministry of Women's Affairs and other institutions in Afghanistan to deal with violence against women, in law enforcement and public awareness .The active support of the men is very much needed to further the cause. The whole community has to be involved to make a difference. Female health personals are to be trained in order to look with the female patients.

Ms Obaid went on to say that 'United Nations Population Fund and the UN country team that are working here are working with the Government to ensure that we can support development for the Afghan people and that they can have a better quality o f life throughout.'

Asked whether it was practical to adopt methods of the west to improve conditions of women in a conservative Muslim country she replied that 'The principle of family planning is well enshrined in the Holy Quran.'

There is an allocation of about 60 million dollars to the project. According to the plan there are three types of involvement in order to save a woman’s life. 'The first one is that you have a trained birth attendant who will be with the woman when she delivers her baby. If there are complications she knows when to move her to a hospital or to a centre. The second one is the availability of emergency obstetric care in the hospital or a health point so that when the woman is in danger there is a doctor who can do a caesarean and save her life. The third is family planning, to ensure there is spacing between children so the woman's health can improve and can handle one pregnancy after another. In all the three, you need to have national capacity, meaning you need trained female health workers; trained doctors; health centers that can serve. Building the capacity of the Ministry of Health and the capacity of the Afghan people is very important in this process of saving women's lives.' /V

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