Afghanistan - The Toughest Battle
The perils of pregnancy
Every 28 minutes a woman dies during childbirth in Afghanistan.
Last Modified: 21 May 2007 12:15 GMT

There is one hospital, seven doctors and 30 beds for
250,000 women of childbearing age in Badakshan

The average life span in Afghanistan is just 46 years old - that is twenty years less than other developing countries.

With 7.5 children to every woman the country has one of the highest fertility rates in the world but every 28 minutes a woman dies during childbirth and 54 per cent of children are born stunted.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Badakshan, the worst affected province.

In Badakshan 40 per cent of girls are married before they are 15, 6,500 out of every 100,000 die during childbirth and just three per cent give birth in a medical facility.

There is one hospital, seven doctors and 30 beds for 250,000 women of childbearing age in the province.

Kulfat had to travel for three days to reach the
hospital - her unborn baby was dead when she arrived

Shafika travelled for hours from her village to seek medical help but Kulfat did not make it in time.

The journey was too long and her uterus erupted before she could reach the hospital.

She told Al Jazeera: "I travelled on a donkey for almost three days to get here; but it was too late for my child."

Still, these women in the capital Faizabad are the lucky ones.

No doctors

Badakshan is one of the most isolated regions of Afghanistan. Villages are tucked away in valleys and mountains.

Begum and Zoleykha know they might die when they
give birth

Begum and Zoleykha are both pregnant.

They tell Al Jazeera that there is a chance they could die when they give birth in a few months time.

Begum says: "I am worried; since I got pregnant I have been having problems.

"There is nothing in the clinic; it won't be able to help me if something goes wrong."

The clinic in Talbuzang village has barely any medicine, no anaesthesiologist and no operating room.


Watch Zeina Khodr's report on healthcare for Afghanistan's women.

It is supposed to provide basic health services to over 7,000 people from the villages in the surrounding area but there are no doctors - only untrained nurses.

If a woman suffers complications during her pregnancy the clinic cannot offer any proper treatment.

Travel for days

Sultan carried his wife to the hospital but the journey
was too long and she and the baby died on the way
With almost non-existent roads and no cars, donkeys are the most common form of transport in rural Afghanistan.

When Sultan Mohammed's wife needed medical attention, the nearest hospital was miles away. She and her baby died before reaching Faizabad.

He tells Al Jazeera: "If there was a doctor here, she would have been alive.

"I had to carry her on a ladder in the hot weather."

Nowhere is new life associated with death as much as it is in Afghanistan.

For women here their options seem to be either to travel for days to get help or to wait for years until help reaches them.

Al Jazeera
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