Badakhshan is a beautiful province situated in the Hindu-Kush Mountains, surrounded by picturesque rivers and snow-caped mountain ranges. The meagre level of healthcare in Badakhshan Province, however, is not as dazzling.
Australia’s distinguished level of healthcare is often considered one of the best in the world, with most people holding an ample level of trust in the services and quality of treatment provided to patients.
In 2002, the modern world was left speechless after a maternal mortality survey, conducted by UNICEF, revealed that an Afghan woman was over 300 times more likely to die during childbirth than her Australian counterpart (as per 2000 Census, ABS).
Astonishingly, this statistic was not the most startling from the survey’s findings. Badakhshan Province, being one of Afghanistan’s poorest regions, was awarded the highest MMR the modern world has ever seen with 6,500 deaths per 100,000 live births (UNICEF, 2002).
An Afghan woman living in Badakhshan Province was 1,250 times more likely to die during childbirth than the average Australian woman.
Badakhshan is a mountainous region, with over 20% of its population living in villages that have no road access. During the summer months, the nearest hospital is an 18-day hike away, while extreme snowfall and dangerously low temperatures during winter months make these remote districts completely cut-off from the rest of Afghanistan 7 months of the year.
In extreme winter, pregnant women are unable to reach the necessary care they need and likewise, midwives are unable to make the impossible journey to provide this support.
Another element contributing to the high MMR’s in Badakhshan is the extreme shortage of female doctors, and the cultural sensitivity that comes along with treatment.
In Afghanistan, women prefer to be treated by female doctors, especially where gynaecological issues are concerned. However, the cycle is unyielding, with women in Afghanistan struggling to attain a university level education, not to mention a career in medicine.
And so, how can we possibly begin to solve the issue of high maternal mortality without first addressing the underlying cause of all these problems? This being, the lack of education available to people living in ultra-poverty.
When living below the poverty line, people are forced out of cities and into remote areas where access to education and healthcare is nonsensical, where long-distance travel is unnaffordable, and where escaping the poverty cycle is unimaginable.
Mahboba’s Promise has identified the issue of maternal mortality and made it their duty to educate and train young women in midwifery, and provide remote regions with essential healthcare facilities.
Mahboba’s Promise has spent the past two decades supporting and educating disadvantaged women and children in Afghanistan through projects like this one.
The organisation is holding a Gala Dinner on 24 February to celebrate 20 years of positive change-making in Afghanistan. All proceeds from the night will go toward continuing the life-changing work of Mahboba’s Promise, including the running of the Badakhshan Maternity Clinic.
Visit mahbobaspromise.org or call (02) 9887 1665 for more information about our projects and Gala Dinner.