Maternal mortality rate drops in Herat, say doctors

While Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the Asia Pacific region, based on UN figures, doctors in Herat said on Friday that the number of deaths of women from obstetric causes in the province has dropped considerably in the past year.

Data by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) show that in Afghanistan, 638 mothers died in every 100,000 births in 2021. The figure was 394 deaths in every 100,000 births in 2022.

“The public health ministry’s assessment shows that child and mothers’ health has improved compared to the previous years given the fact that they have more access to health centers,” said Mohammad Asif Kabir, a Taliban spokesman for the public health directorate in the province.

According to doctors in Herat, there were 24,964 births at Herat Public Hospital in the solar year 1401 (March 2022 to March 2023) of which, there were 25 deaths, which they say is about one percent.

“The priority of the ministry of public health in former and current regimes has been to reduce child and maternal deaths. Afghanistan is on top of the list in this respect. The figures provided about Herat are only from one public hospital and they cannot represent the whole province or the region. There is a need for broader figures,” said Dr Saeeda Saeed, head of Herat hospital’s gynecology unit.

Doctors say that lack of food, a weak economy, early marriages and lack of awareness among people are some of the main causes of maternal deaths in the country.

“Lack of food for mothers during pregnancy is a main cause of maternal deaths. Another reason is early marriages that happen often in Afghanistan,” said Dr Parwin Ahmadi, a gynecologist.