Only 10 percent of married Afghan women ages 15 to 49 use a form of contraceptives. Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world, and experts hope that increased use of family planning techniques will extend women’s life expectancy. In Afghanistan, a woman dies giving birth every 30 minutes, according to the St. Lois Dispatch.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) started a program two years ago that dispenses highly subsidized contraceptives to women in 13 rural Afghan provinces in markets and hundreds of clinics and hospitals. While the USAID program is said to have increased family planning methods, Afghan women still lack access to basic reproductive healthcare. In its study of the Afghanistan’s Herat Province, Physicians for Human Rights found that only 1 percent of women have a trained health care professional present when giving birth, many of whom lack knowledge of how to handle even the most basic of birthing issues. Only 11 percent received prenatal care.
Greater work is needed to increase women’s access to quality reproductive healthcare to lower the rate of maternal mortality. Said Dr. Lynn Amowitz, Senior Medical Researcher at Physicians for Human Rights, “The rate of maternal mortality in a society is a critical indicator of the health and human rights status of women in a community.”