HEALTH STATUS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND WHO
PROGRAMMES

 

In Afghanistan, the health status of women and children has been seriously affected by long-term conflict, population movement, low socio-economic status, and shortage of female health personnel and difficult
access to the health care services particularly to the women. Hence, the infant and maternal mortality
rates still remain amongst the highest in the world.

Women and children of Afghanistan have distinctly higher burden of illness and death. It is estimated
that 40% of children are underweight and more than 50% of all deaths occur among those under
age five. The higher death rate in women is mainly due to maternal causes such as antepartum and
postpartum haemorrhage, obstructed labour, puerperal infections, pregnancy induced hypertension and pregnancy anaemias. Maternal health care services are not equally distributed and majority of the women especially from the rural areas does not have access to essential obstetric care. In the health facilities
where only male health personnel are available, utilization of the health services by women is very low
because of social and cultural barriers. Female health personnel are very few and most of them need
refresher training to upgrade their skill and knowledge in essential obstetric care as well as in heath management. There is no emergency service available to transport the women to the referral facilities
when complications arise. Traditional birth attendants attend a large proportion of home deliveries and
90% of deliveries take place at home. Only 15% of deliveries are attended by trained health personnel.
Total fertility rate per woman is estimated to be 6.9 and life expectancy at birth is 42.5. Female literacy
rate in Afghanistan, one of the lowest in the world, is estimated to be 1-2% in rural areas where 80%
of the total population reside.

Tuberculosis is a major killer in Afghanistan with an annual risk of infection of 3%. The disease is
affecting more women than men. 70% of TB cases reported are females. Reasons for this are not
very clear however, early marriage with frequent pregnancies, less intake of food, spending more time
in poorly ventilated houses, more physical work and less access to education are among the factors
that are thought to be responsible for the higher prevalence of TB in women. Moreover pregnant women
and children under five in Afghanistan are at high risk of malaria.

WHO PROGRAMMES: