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UNFPA AFGHANISTAN CELEBRATES THE WORLD POPULATION DAY 2012

Despite a positive trend showing that maternal mortality is improving, in Afghanistan every two hours a woman dies due to complications in pregnancy. For progress to continue, all participants including the government, international donor and local partners need to sustain continued support and investment into this sector.

"Fewer women are now dying during pregnancy and childbirth in Afghanistan but the challenge is still before us. As reported by the Afghanistan Mortality Study 2010, the maternal mortality ratio is lower than previously believed. Today the percentage of births delivered by skilled birth attendants has doubled from 14% in 2003 to 34% in 2010, nevertheless much more needs to be done to achieve universal access to reproductive health services in Afghanistan" said Dr. Laurent Zessler, UNFPA Afghanistan CO Representative, opening the World Population Day 2012 celebration in Kabul where the Minister of Public Health, members of Parliament, the Central Statistics Organization, the civil society and professional associations debated on reproductive health rights.

While world population reached 7 billion, the UN estimations indicate that the number will rise to 9 billion by 2043. Most of the increase in the population of the world takes place in 58 countries of the world, where Asia makes 9 of these countries and Afghanistan is one of these nine countries that have the highest population increase.

"The increasing population of Afghanistan will result in imbalance in educational and employment opportunities. The result will be more unemployment, poverty. Population growth will also affect the government ability to provide health and education services" is the warning stated by Dr. Suraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health during the ceremony. HE Dr. Dalil also explained that "Ninety percent of women in reproductive age (15-49) have at least some information about family planning, however, only the 20% actually use one type of family planning. Therefore, MoPH and its international supporters have family planning and access to reproductive health services as a component of the essential health services in Afghanistan".

According to Abdul Rahman Ghafoori, the President General of the Central Statistics Organization, recent data collected in Afghanistan like the MICS 2011, shows a direct connection between the increase of educated people number, the decrease in maternal mortality and the increase in use of family planning techniques.

"There is the need to work jointly. Our request to the Government is to develop a Population Strategy. If we start by introducing reproductive health rights in the curricula at school, the 8 million students currently enrolled in Afghanistan will receive information on reproductive health rights which can be a huge success" said Shenkai Karokhail, member of the Parliament of Afghanistan.

Women's reproductive health and rights feature as a central theme in UNFPA's intervention in Afghanistan where its efforts focus on contributing to the MDG 5 indicators of reducing maternal mortality, increasing and improving access of women to skilled reproductive health care providers and family planning resources and information.

UNFPA efforts for reproductive health and rights are manifested in institutional support and capacity development of the Ministry of Public Health, professional institutions, and support and partnerships with professional societies such as the Afghanistan Midwife Association.

UNFPA also promotes expansion of reproductive health service delivery through training of community midwives and operation of mobile health teams in remote difficult-to-reach parts of its target provinces. UNFPA strives to promote the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity.