UNICEF Declares State of Acute Emergency for Afghan Women and Children
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has declared a state of 'acute emergency' for women and children in Afghanistan due to unacceptably high maternal and child mortality rates. UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Cecilia Lotse said that among children, girls in particular are "very vulnerable," with one in five children dieing before the age of five from illness and malnutrition.
UNICEF reports that 1,600 out of every 100,000 women die giving birth or as a result of related complications, as compared to 7 deaths per 100,000 in industrialized countries. In some parts of Afghanistan, maternal mortality rates are as high as 6,000 per 100,000, Lotse reported. "Afghan women don't live long lives," said Lotse. "Afghanistan may be the one country in the world where women die before men."
In addition to its high child and maternal mortality rates, illiteracy among women and girls in Afghanistan is as high as 85 percent, according to UNICEF. Courageous Afghan women continue to build and sustain girls' schools despite violent attacks. Girls' enrollment in secondary schools is still under 10 percent. Girls were prohibited from attending school under the Taliban and were permitted to return to school when the Taliban were ousted in 2001. Since then, over 40 girls' schools have been bombed, set on fire, or violently attacked. Expansion of peacekeeping and security forces in Afghanistan is urgently needed to ensure girls' continued return to school.
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. . . .