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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – December 2, 2002: Afghanistan and Maternal Deaths - 2002-11-29

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Afghanistan has one of the highest death rates in the world among pregnant women and women giving birth. This finding is from a study released in November by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States. Researchers questioned about thirteen-thousand families in four Afghan provinces. Many of the families live in small farming areas.

The researchers collected information about eighty-five-thousand women who died in the past three years. They found that problems during pregnancy or birth caused forty-eight percent of all deaths among women between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine.

Officials say the death rate is worse in farming areas because women do not get needed medical services. For example, in one farming area, sixty-five percent of all deaths among women were caused by problems during pregnancy or childbirth. However, in cities like Kabul, the rate is only sixteen percent.

To help change this, the United States has launched a new program to build medical centers throughout Afghanistan. American Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan. He says the United States is working to open a medical center in Kabul especially for women and children. Mister Thompson says that Afghan doctors who live in the United States will help train workers for the center. The United States also plans to set up additional medical centers in all of Afghanistan’s provinces. Each center will cost about one-million dollars.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has also launched a program to train female medical workers in the eastern part of Afghanistan. Currently, twenty-five women are being trained. After their training is completed, the women will work in farming communities throughout eastern Afghanistan. In time, officials hope to expand the program to western and southern Afghanistan.

UNICEF says that women and their families need to be educated to recognize possible problems during pregnancy. It says that the majority of deaths among women in Afghanistan could be prevented, but only if the right steps are taken.

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