A clinic dedicated to providing reproductive health services to Afghan women opened its doors in Kabul this past weekend – one of the first to provide comprehensive services since the repressive Taliban regime took over in 1996. Marie Stopes International (MSI), a British-based global reproductive and women’s health partnership, opened the clinic that will provide preventive maternal health care, family planning, child health care and abortions in limited cases to an immediate population of close to 1 million. In addition, MSI will be opening several mini clinics in United Nations Habitat women’s community centers throughout 15 districts of Kabul, which will provide counseling, education and maternal and child health services with referrals to MSI’s main clinic for specialized treatment.
“We looked at the feasibility of opening [an MSI clinic] in Afghanistan some years ago and it was one of the hardest decisions we had to make not to go ahead,” wrote Julie Mundy, regional representative for MSI, in The London Times. “We realized that, because of the attitude of the Taliban, women would be a taking a considerable risk by coming to the clinic. We learned that to prevent a pregnancy, women would stand against walls while sisters of friends smashed them with rocks. To induce an abortion, they used sticks and stones or pummeled their stomachs. Clinics are desperately needed.”
Afghanistan currently has the second highest number of maternal deaths in the world –16,000 women die annually from pregnancy-related causes. Abortion, which was outlawed under the Taliban, is now allowed by the new Afghan government for up to 12 weeks if a woman’s life is at risk. An Afghan management and clinic team will lead MSI’s clinic, with outside support from MSI’s global partnership. The clinic also will be working closely with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, according to MSI.