Science & Tech

Pregnancy and delivery deadly for many Afghan women

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Researcher studies women’s health and human rights in Afghanistan

Lynn Amowitz, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital an a medical instructor at Harvard Medical School, found that women in the Herat province of Afghanistan receive some of the most inferior maternal healthcare in the world. Many clinics in the province lacked the basic medical supplies necessary for healthy delivery, such as forceps and intravenous antibiotics. Additionally the availability of Afghan doctors in the province providing pre- and post-natal care had decreased to alarming levels. “We went village to village, and what we found was a woefully inadequate level of healthcare options for women, if any,” said Amowitz. “In rural areas, a woman’s chance of dying because of complications with her pregnancy is far greater than in urban areas. That’s abysmal.” Most care is symptom-based, said Amowitz. In her study, which was funded by Physicians for Human Rights, she concluded that most Afghan women in Herat only seek-out medical treatment once they encounter serious complications with their pregnancy and may not be able to get to an adequate facility in time, or have the money to afford care. Very few women, Amowitz found, had access to doctors, midwives or trained birth attendants who could provide regular check-ups.