Women in Afghanistan are suffering “catastrophic” maternal death rates, according to the most recent comprehensive surveys of the country’s state of health, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Management Sciences for Health, a non-profit based in Boston, in cooperation with the Afghan Health Ministry. Though the data is still being analyzed, medical experts believe that Afghanistan may now be experiencing the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, according to the New York Times. The current estimate is 1,700 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), second only to Sierra Leone. However, a new nationwide census is currently underway, for the first time on over 20 years.
Preliminary results from the surveys show that complications from pregnancy or childbirth were associated with about half of all deaths of women of reproductive age from 1998 to 2002. Lack of education, electricity, and access to clean water, sanitation, and medical care compound the situation for Afghanistan’s women. In addition, more than 85 percent of all Afghans live in villages, and only 30 percent of those residents have access to a radio, which is often the most effective means of transmitting information about public health services and practices in developing countries, according to the Times.
The vast majority of Afghan women give birth with no medical assistance and receive no prenatal care, both because of lingering effects from the Taliban’s control of the country as well as the sheer poverty of many women in the country, particularly those in rural villages, according to the Washington Post. Many foreign and Afghan health experts worry that with the recent focus of the United States on Iraq, Afghanistan will be forgotten as it was when the Soviet forces left the country in 1989, according to the Times. Recently, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah visited the United States to urge US officials to fulfill promises of humanitarian and reconstruction aid that would improve the overall situation for Afghanistan. Nations pledged $4.5 billion in aid to Afghanistan in January with $1.8 billion for this year alone – one-third of which has yet to be delivered. Abdullah noted that a significant portion of these pledges was made in the form of credit rather than grants. The United States government is still debating long-term financial commitments to Afghanistan. While the House approved $1.15 billion over four years, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bill that would increase funding to $2 billion for humanitarian aid and $1 billion to expand international peacekeeping troops. The full Senate has yet to vote on this bill.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .