Why We Work in Afghanistan
8/31/2021: An update from CEO Kate Grant about our partner in Afghanistan. Read the full letter here.
Afghanistan has been deemed one of “the worst places in the world to give birth.” Delivering a baby here can be a life or death event. With only 50% of births attended by a skilled medical professional, Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Every thirty minutes another Afghan woman dies during childbirth, and for every woman who dies, it is estimated that 20 more survive with significant injuries, such as obstetric fistula.
The threat to women’s health—and maternal health in particular—have been made worse by the country’s social and political realities. Decades of war and instability have devastated Afghanistan’s health care infrastructure. Moreover, in Afghan culture, it is widely considered improper for a woman to be treated by a male doctor. If there are no female doctors available, she may receive no treatment at all. For a woman with fistula, this could mean living in misery for the rest of her life. Practices such as early marriage and a lack of female education—only 24% of women are able to read and write—further undermine women’s ability to access care.
While conditions for women have started to improve in recent years, there remains an acute need to build the healthcare capacity for fistula treatment. Training female surgeons and other medical staff is critical to the success of any long-term solution.
Meet Our Partners
We identify local surgical teams in Afghanistan already successfully treating women with fistula—and then work to amplify their efforts.