Many Afghan women forced to give birth at home

An Afghan woman can expect to have an average 5.1 babies in her lifetime, the highest fertility rate in Asia. That makes giving birth a common and frequent experience — but mothers say it is too often also hard, lonely and frightening.

At the Ahmad Shah Baba hospital, which Médecins Sans Frontières runs on the outskirts of Kabul, Bazbobo, 40 and seven months pregnant with her 13th child, says she has delivered most of her babies at home and alone, unable to get to hospital without a male relative to escort her.

“My husband was away and that’s why I had to deliver at home. I couldn’t get to the hospital,” she says as she awaits a check-up in a small office, while dozens of women wait outside.

“We are very poor people so we don’t come to the hospital. Most of my relatives stay at home.”

Risky pregnancies
Contraception, while increasing in popularity, is still relatively little used in Afghanistan. Women also tend to marry very young, increasing the chances of a risky early pregnancy.

In the gynaecology ward of a women’s hospital in Herat city, 20-year-old Gandul is recovering from the birth of her second child, out of six pregnancies. She travelled from neighbouring Badghis province, nearly 100km away after she began haemorrhaging, leaving her new-born baby at home.

In the next ward, Bibigul (55) is awaiting a hysterectomy after suffering a uterine prolapse — when the womb collapses from its normal position. She has been pregnant 12 times and had 10 babies.

Aqlima, whose 20-year-old daughter Homaira is training to be a midwife, says women of her generation were used to having their babies without facilities or trained help. “Women just gave birth on a mattress on the ground,” she says.

She wants better for her daughter. Women who have experienced how dangerous pregnancy and birth can be without medical attention are now working to make things better for those who come after them.

Fariba, a 24-year-old trainee midwife from rural western Afghanistan, says she was inspired to train after nearly dying herself during an early pregnancy.

“I was two months’ pregnant and I had a miscarriage,” she says. “I was bleeding for four days but no one helped me. I was close to death. A traditional birth assistant finally helped with the removal of the placenta and fortunately I am alive.”

Next year she will graduate and return to her village to help other women like her to survive. “Our aim is to come to a time when we don’t have any more maternal mortality in Afghanistan,” she says. — Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Strandfontein homeless site more a prison than a place of safety — Human rights report

Independent reports slam Cape Town’s Covid-19 homeless site, the city says things have improved since independent monitors visited the site

10 conflicts to watch in 2020

As Washington overpromises and underdelivers, regional powers are seeking solutions on their own — both through violence and diplomacy

2019: The ones who left us

From Uyinene Mrwetyana, Oliver Mtukudzi to Xolani Gwala, Mail & Guardian remembers those who have passed on

More battles ahead for domestic worker unions

Florence Sosiba, speaks to the Mail & Guardian about how important domestic workers are and exclusion in the COIDA

“Life has been good to me, considering where I come from” – Xolani Gwala

Just over a year ago, veteran radio presenter Xolani Gwala’s cancer was in remission. He spoke to the Mail & Guardian once he was back on air.

Kanya Cekeshe’s lawyer appeals decision not to grant him bail to the high court

Kanya Cekeshe’s legal team filed an urgent appeal at the Johannesburg high court on Tuesday against Monday’s judgment by magistrate Theunis Carstens.

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Fees free fall, independent schools close

Parents have lost their jobs or had salaries cut; without state help the schools just can’t survive

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday