The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sean Kenny, UK, +44 7766 443 506,
Louis Belanger, US, +1 202 321 2967,

The Worst Place In The World to Give Birth - Exclusive Pictures from Afghanistan


When the UN meets this week to discuss the Millennium
Development Goals maternal mortality will be high on the agenda. The
target to cut the rate by three quarters by 2015 is the most severely
off-track of all the MDGs and every year half a million women are die
in childbirth - most of them needlessly.

Afghanistan is one of
the countries which is unlikely to meet the target. A woman dies there
every 27 minutes thanks to pregnancy-related complications. There are
1,600 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births but in the remote
mountainous province of Badakhshan the rate is 6,500 per 100,000 - the
highest recorded rate of maternal mortality in the world.

took top photojournalist Alix Fazzina to Badakhshan, where she met and
photographed the families behind the statistics and the doctors,
midwives and traditional birth attendants trying to save women's lives.

See a slideshow here.

stories available include that of nineteen year old Harakat. Whilst she
was heavily pregnant she endured a night of heavy bleeding before being
taken to a clinic two hours away. When she arrived her blood pressure
barely registered and the clinic realised there was little they could
do. Harakat had to go to the nearest hospital, seven hours away, for an
emergency caesarean section. After an hour of traveling Harakat gave
birth in the car, and had to endure the rest of the journey with her
dead baby girl still attached to her because they could find nothing to
cut her away.

Harakat was stabilized at the hospital and was lucky to be alive.

"When I left my house I thought I would die," she told Oxfam. Her daughter was buried in a nearby children's cemetery.

In Afghanistan:

  • 25,000 women die every year
  • Over 90% of deliveries take place at home and only 9% of deliveries are attended by skilled health personnel.
  • Since 2002, over 2,000 formal midwives have been trained but Afghanistan requires another 8,000 to 10,000 midwives to reach its target of one midwife per 2,500-3,000 people.

Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.