The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced plans to distribute 20,000 specially designed interactive talking books to women in Afghanistan as part of an effort to reduce Afghanistan’s appallingly high rate of maternal and infant mortality rates, Agence France-Press reported yesterday. Built by the American corporation LeapFrog Inc., the technology-based educational books, costing a total of 1.25 million dollars, will play recorded information in Dari and Pashto, two major languages spoken in Afghanistan, reports Reuters. According to HHS, its developers included a team of HHS health care professionals and members of the ministries of Women’s Affairs and Health in Afghanistan. HHS intends the product to reach the estimated 80 percent of women in Afghanistan who are unable to read, and provide them with information on pregnancy, child immunization, breastfeeding, and treating injuries and burns.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has major concerns that the information provided by HHS to date on this book has made no mention of family planning information as part of its content. It is unknown also how HHS intends on distributing the books to rural areas, where women’s access to health care is still severely restricted. The few clinics and hospitals that do exist in these areas lack the personnel and medical supplies needed to implement even the most basic health care. “How can any project address the health care of Afghan women and the severe maternal mortality rates without providing basic family planning information and supplies?” asked Norma Gattsek, Deputy Director for Policy and Programs at Feminist Majority Foundation.
The Feminist Majority is leading the call for significant increases in funding for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, including health care and education programs for women and girls, and sufficient numbers of peacekeepers to provide security and stability. Without adequate resources and security, women in Afghanistan will never be able to obtain their rights and the country will never have sustained peace and democracy.