Deputy Minister urges continued support for women's health

Report
from British & Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group
Published on 09 Nov 2012 View Original

An Afghan Deputy Health Minister has warned that improvements in health care for Afghan women could be put at risk if donors withdraw support too quickly.

Speaking to BAAG during a visit to London, Dr Najia Tareq said that female health care had improved since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. She pointed out that maternal mortality rates had dropped dramatically, as the Afghan government, with the help of the international community, had expanded reproductive health services across the country.

However, she said Afghan women were concerned about what might happen after 2014, when the government is due to take over responsibility for providing basic services.

“The Afghan government simply doesn’t have the capacity to run such a huge and broad programme in the whole country“ she said. At the moment, she explained, some health services were contracted out to NGOs, particularly in rural areas.

The Afghan government was concerned it wouldn’t be able to maintain all these services if they were handed over to Kabul abruptly after 2014.

Dr Tareq stressed that this transition should be gradual, to enable the Afghan authorities to maintain the current levels of service.

Special attention also needed to be paid to the problems of remote areas, which already suffered from a shortage of female doctors and health workers. Female health workers were reluctant to move to such areas, leaving much of the primary health to midwives.

“We need to train more midwives, more female staff,” she said. “And they should work in remote areas, with communities, with the people.”

Dr Tareq called on the international community to continue technical and financial support beyond 2014, in order to support the Afghan authorities as they moved to take over responsibility for health services.

Despite improvements to maternal mortality rates over the past decade, Afghanistan remains one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a pregnant woman. Dr Tareq was visiting London at the invitation of BAAG member Marie Stopes International to draw attention to the country’s continuing reproductive health needs.

To listen to Dr Tareq's interview click here