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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – September 9, 2002: Health Problems in Afghanistan - 2002-09-06

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Afghanistan is facing a severe health care crisis. There is not enough food, shelter and clothing for all the people. There is also a serious lack of health care workers. In addition, drugs, medical equipment and fuel are in limited supply. Repairs at health centers are also needed.

The World Health Organization estimates six-million people in Afghanistan can not get any health care. Life expectancy for the people of Afghanistan is among the lowest in the world. Men live to be about forty-five years old while women live to about age forty-seven. Also, more than twenty-five percent of all children in Afghanistan die before the age of five. More than half of these young children suffer from poor nutrition.

The W-H-O also says the number of women in Afghanistan who die during childbirth is the second highest in the world. This is partly because fewer than fifteen percent of all births in the country are attended by a trained health care worker.

Many humanitarian organizations are working to improve the situation in Afghanistan. For example, the medical group Doctors without Borders is providing treatment and food at refugee camps along the Afghan border. The American-based group Direct Relief International has also given Afghan hospitals and medical centers millions of dollars in medicines and supplies.

The W-H-O says many deaths could be prevented if Afghans were better informed, especially about pregnancy risks. Usually, male family members decide when a woman should visit a health center. Based on this, the W-H-O and other aid groups produced a short film that was shown in more than two-hundred villages. In the film, two brothers must decide whether to take their wives to a hospital when the women develop problems with their pregnancies. One brother seeks medical help for his wife, who later gives birth to two healthy babies. The other brother refuses to seek medical help and his wife dies from bleeding.

The W-H-O also is launching a new radio program to provide information about health and how to prevent disease. Female Afghan reporters will broadcast the radio programs two times a week. The broadcasts are expected to begin next month.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.