In spite of the 12 years the U.S. has spent nation-building in Afghanistan and the billions of dollars that have been poured into the country, it remains one of the most dangerous places for women to give birth in the world.
A rising midwifery movement is making strides toward lessening the danger. In the last decade, the death rates from complications of pregnancy and childbirth have dropped from 1 in 15 women to 1 in 32 in remote northern provinces like Badakshan.
“Before, we had no trained doctors, no trained nurses, no facilities and no donors,” midwife Nasira Karimi told AFP. “Badakhshan was famous around the world for losing mothers and babies.”
The difficulty of transporting women to centralized health facilities is one significant problem in the mountainous, forbidding terrain of the northern provinces. Another is the region’s deep religious conservatism, which forbids women from being seen by males outside the family.
In 2002, there were only four midwives in all of Badakshan. Now there is one in each of its 28 districts.
However, these gains are far from permanent. Eighty percent of Afghanistan’s health care costs are provided by outside donors. Health officials in the country fear that donations will fall off and the world’s attention will wander after the projected 2014 withdrawal of NATO forces.
Watch the video, embedded via AFP, below: