Frontline World

Afghanistan - A House for Haji Baba, Ocotber 2003

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "A House for Haji Baba"

Behind the Lens

Danger, Determination and Destiny

Politics, Security, Health, Education

Government, Population, Economy

Background, Reconstruction Efforts, Warlordism




Invisible Women
Politics: Struggling to Speak Security: Fear and Violence Health: A Risky Place to Be Female Education: Learning for Change

Health: A Risky Place to Be Female

Unsafe drinking water, malnutrition and infectious diseases all contribute to poor health in Afghanistan. One in four children dies before the age of 5. In rural areas, clinics and hospitals may be hours away on foot, and travel is made more difficult by bad weather, lack of security, nonexistent roads and rough terrain. Even those who do reach medical care may not get what they need. Many clinics lack such fundamental supplies as clean water, lighting for surgery, blood pressure gauges and the equipment to test donated blood for HIV. Many don't offer even basic services for pregnant women.

Photo courtesy Eve Lyman
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be pregnant, according to a preliminary report on maternal mortality by the Afghan Ministry of Health, UNICEF, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death among women of childbearing age. And even when general health care was accessible, under Taliban rule male doctors were prohibited from treating women.

Then, in 2000, the Taliban allowed female doctors and nurses to return to work for the first time since it had taken power. And since the fall of the regime, male physicians have been allowed to examine and treat female patients. However, for women from rural areas or with conservative families, that is not always acceptable. To deal with the crisis in women's health care, Afghan medical schools are again training women doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives.


Management Sciences for Health's study of Afghanistan's hospitals and clinics (large Adobe Acrobat file; takes a few minutes to download)

World Health Organization's summary of health in Afghanistan

Press release from UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about surveys they conducted in Afghanistan that found Afghan women's health is among the worst in the world

• POLITICS: Struggling to Speak
• SECURITY: Fear and Violence
• HEALTH: A Risky Place to Be Female
• EDUCATION: Learning for Change

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