'Maternal health condition worrisome in Afghanistan' | world | Hindustan Times
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'Maternal health condition worrisome in Afghanistan'

Despite increase in the number of midwives, health facilities and female health workers in Afghanistan, the strife-beset country still has the world's second highest maternal mortality rate.

world Updated: Jan 27, 2009 11:32 IST

Despite increase in the number of midwives, health facilities and female health workers in Afghanistan, the strife-beset country still has the world's second highest maternal mortality rate, UN officials said on Tuesday.

Early marriage, often under the age of 15, and lack of access to medical intervention until complications become severe, are two factors that have hampered improvement in the situation, officials from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said at a press briefing.

"With this situation, it is a long road for Afghanistan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal mortality," UNICEF Representative Catherine Mbengue said, referring to goals to reduce global ills by 2015.

"The reality is that for every 100,000 births, 1,600 women die," WHO Representative Peter Graaf said, adding: "Given the large average number of pregnancies for Afghan women over their lifetimes, this figure translates into a one in eight chance for any Afghan woman to die of pregnancy-related complications."

Graaf said that in order to save mothers' lives, the UN agencies are working with the Ministry of Public Heath and other local and international partners to increase access to skilled birth attendants, which have increased in the country from 467 to 2,167 since 2002.

However, 4,500 skilled midwives were needed in order to cover 90 per cent of the country's needs, he said.