New Afghanistan Mortality Survey Indicates Dramatic Declines in Child and Maternal Mortality Rates

New Afghanistan Mortality Survey Indicates Dramatic Declines in Child and Maternal Mortality Rates

Save The Children Says Frontline Health Worker Investments Paying Off — but Also at Risk

Maria, 30 years old, is pregnant with her seventh child. A year ago she miscarried a child. She is holding her daughter Zoiqa, 1,5 years old, while at the district hospital in Aqcha district in Northern Afghanistan. Photo credit: Mats Lignell/Save the Children.
Maria, 30 years old, is pregnant with her seventh child. She is holding her daughter Zoiqa, 1,5 years old, while at the district hospital in Aqcha district in Northern Afghanistan. Photo credit: Mats Lignell/Save the Children.

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Tanya Weinberg 202.640.6647 (O), 202.247.6610 (M)

WESTPORT, Conn. (Nov. 30, 2011) — Save the Children welcomed a new Afghan government mortality survey Wednesday that indicates dramatic drops in the country's child and maternal mortality rates in recent years.

The Afghan government conducted the most extensive national mortality survey to date with input from United Nations agencies and the U.S. Agency for International Development. When compared to the best previously available surveys, the new report indicates that:

  • The rate of children dying before age 5 has dropped from one in five to about one in ten
  • Lifetime risk of maternal mortality has dropped from one in 11 to one in 50

"Today, many more Afghan mothers and children are surviving birth and the early years thanks to focused efforts to extend the reach of very basic health services. There's no doubt that the rising numbers of frontline health workers and health clinics are saving lives," said Mary Beth Powers, who leads Save the Children's newborn and child survival campaign.

Improvement in What Has Been the "World's Worst Place to Be a Mother"

For the past two years, Save the Children had ranked Afghanistan as the world's worst place to be a mother in its annual State of the World's Mothers report — due in large part to it having the highest known child and mortality rates in the world. Save the Children attributes new progress to bringing more frontline health workers and services to communities where health care access and awareness was lacking, including current totals of approximately:

  • 22,000 trained community health workers, up from 2,500 in 2004
  • 3,000 trained midwives, up from under 500 in 2003
  • 2,000 health facilities

Save the Children runs a midwifery school in northern Afghanistan funded by the U.S. government and individual Americans. The agency has also trained many of the Afghan government's new community health workers to provide vaccines and prevent and treat leading child killers pneumonia and diarrhea in communities that, a decade ago, had little or no access to health care.

Further Health Progress Needed, But at Risk

The new report points out that over the past decade, many more Afghan women have gained access to prenatal care and skilled attendance at birth. But access remains a significant hurdle for many others. For instance, the new survey found that only 26 percent of rural women delivered with a medically skilled provider, compared to 71 percent of urban women.

"Mothers and children should not and need not die from preventable causes no matter where they are and there is still much work to be done in Afghanistan. But the progress we're seeing there is very much at risk if the United States and other international donors pull back their support now," said Powers.

The U.S. Congress is currently considering major cuts to foreign assistance in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

To learn more about frontline health workers reducing child mortality around the world and how to support them, visit www.GoodGoes.org.

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