Congresswomen and global health administrators held a briefing on Capitol Hill Tuesday to highlight the issue of maternal health in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world according to UNICEF. Women’s Policy Inc. sponsored the event in collaboration with the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
Melanne Verveer, the first-ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s issues, spoke of women in Afghanistan “dying because medical facilities lack the equipment or the means to provide care under the best circumstances and in other circumstances because they lack electricity,” reported Voice of America News. She also referenced an Afghan bill intended to eliminate violence against women that Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly will sign. The bill establishes a six month prison sentence for men who prevent women from working, getting an education or receiving health care, reports Agence France Presse.
Afghan Midwives Association President Pashtoon Azfar, and USAID Senior Maternal Health Advisor, Mary Ellen Stanton, both spoke on successful midwife training programs that have greatly increased the number of skilled care providers in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was recently criticized by the United Nations for the impact corruption and instability have on the Afghan people, especially women. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report last week that “slammed Afghanistan for failing to curb violence against women and for sustaining a culture of impunity that leaves such crimes unpunished,” reported Agence France Presse.