Afghanistan’s Dying Mothers

In Afghanistan, a woman dies of pregnancy-related causes every 27 minutes – and perhaps even more frequently, because many such deaths go unrecorded. The problem is not only inadequate healthcare, but also a culture in which discrimination against women begins at birth, and in which women themselves regard their suffering as unavoidable.

Roughly 75% of Afghan newborns that die do so because of lack of food, warmth, and care. Unloved little girls fare the worst. In Afghanistan as a whole, a woman dies of pregnancy-related causes every 27 minutes – and perhaps even more frequently, because many such deaths go unrecorded. Many, perhaps most, are under sixteen years of age.

The Taliban – blamed nowadays for just about all of Afghanistan’s ills – have officially been gone for nearly seven years, so why are conditions still so abysmal?

In Kabul and Herat, mobile phones abound, a tooth-eroding concoction called “Afghan Cola” is sold, the Internet works (sometimes), there are ATM machines, sophisticated heroin laboratories, four-wheel drive vehicles, five-star hotels, ads for private banks – all the trappings of globalized modernity. Yet so many women die like flies, in pools of blood and deep-rooted indifference.

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