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UNICEF Regional Director’s visit spotlights problems, progress for women and children

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2005
UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Cecilia Lotse hears the story of Abdul Wahab, whose young wife died last month during pregnancy because the medical care she needed was unavailable in her village.

By Edward Carwardine and Kun Li

KABUL, 4 August 2005 – UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Cecilia Lotse is in Afghanistan this week. Her visit serves to draw attention to the work that still needs to be done to improve the situation of women and girls, but also to recognize the significant progress made in the last four years.

In the south-eastern province of Nangarhar, Ms. Lotse met with a local villager, Abdul Wahab, and his two children. Mr. Wahab’s wife died last month at the age of 25 as a result of a medical emergency which occurred during pregnancy. The family’s village had no doctors or properly trained health workers, and she literally bled to death. Her unborn child died with her.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2005
Cecilia Lotse talks with a young woman at a UNICEF-supported literacy project in the south-eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

This story is tragically typical of life in parts of Afghanistan. With poor access to health facilities and a chronic shortage of qualified female health workers, Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Some 70 pregnant women die every day, often during childbirth. About 20 per cent of Afghan children die before the age of five, according to UNICEF’s Afghanistan office. In some areas of Afghanistan, maternal death rates are as high as 6,000 per 100,000 women, according to the Afghan Health Ministry.

Literacy and medical care

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2005
At a rural health clinic in the south-eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, Cecilia Lotse speaks with a mother who has brought her young son for treatment.

Just minutes from Mr. Wahab’s village, Ms. Lotse observed a UNICEF-supported project where young women – many of them widows – are taught basic reading and writing skills. They are also given vocational training. The project is part of UNICEF’s efforts to improve the female literacy rate; Afghanistan has one of the lowest female literacy rates in the world.

In the southern city of Kandahar, Ms. Lotse visited a new provincial referral centre for expectant mothers. The centre will help provide better medical care for women in the area. UNICEF is providing equipment and staff training.

Ms. Lotse’s visit to Afghanistan continues. On the agenda is a meeting with young girls at a community-based school. Ms. Lotse will also meet with representatives of the Afghan government, UN agencies and other international organizations, for discussions on improving health and education among Afghanistan’s children and women.




4 August 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Edward Carwardine reports on Regional Director for South Asia, Cecilia Lotse’s visit to Afghanistan.

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