With one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, Afghanistan remains among the most unsafe places to be a pregnant woman. The stakes are high. Here the average woman has six to seven children and a one in 11 chance of dying in childbirth.
The Afghan government is firmly committed to turning this situation around and we are working hard to help them. They need our support to bring sexual and reproductive healthcare to women. And we in turn need donors' support to build capacity and to deliver services.
Many donors are shifting their focus away from Afghanistan, but we are delighted to announce that the Finnish government has committed to doubling its funding to Marie Stopes International Afghanistan until 2017.
The funding will help us reach more women, to educate more communities and to build on existing projects to create lasting change.
These projects help overcome religious and cultural barriers making family planning more accepted in communities. For example, our training programme with Mullahs and Mullahs’ wives enables them to share sexual and reproductive healthcare messages to their communities.
Afghan Mullahs and their wives are highly respected and influential community leaders. By working with them to reach women we are able to share information in a culturally and religiously sensitive way. Providing information and referrals to local family planning clinics, the training programme is improving access to and use of life-saving reproductive health and family planning services. Many have subsequently become reproductive health champions with one Mullah even distributing condoms from his mosque.
Increased funding will also help us support the government implement the country’s first Post-Abortion Care Guidelines, providing training and services to ensure women have access to the emergency treatment as well as post-abortion family planning and HIV services.
This funding is a welcomed boost for our programme. It will change the lives of thousands of women and their families for generations to come.