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Less than fifteen years ago, in 2002, Afghanistan's maternal mortality ratio stood at 1,600 deaths for every 100,000 live births. Today, the pregnancy related mortality rate is 327.

Yet significant challenges remain. Maternal mortality, though a fraction of its earlier levels, remains amongst the highest in the world. Skilled attendants, such as midwives, who can assist in a safe and hygienic childbirth and quickly identify and act on complications, are present at only 34 percent of deliveries, risking the lives of both mothers and infants. Maternal mortality and morbidity are further exacerbated by Afghanistan's high birth rate, early child bearing, and by pregnancies at close intervals. Women can expect to bear over five children during their lifetimes, more than twice the global average between two and three.

UNFPA's key achievements

- In 2012, Afghanistan developed the revised National Reproductive Health Policy 2012-2016 and National Reproductive Health Strategy 2012-2016 with UNFPA technical support and advocacy.

- UNFPA has helped develop the National Policy and Strategy for Nursing and Midwifery Services 2011-2015 and successfully advocated for the definition of educational standards and provision for midwifery training.

- In 2014, the first batch of students started Afghanistan's ground-breaking four-year bachelor level midwifery programme at Kabul Medical University, developed with UNFPA support.

- UNFPA-supported community health services, including 80 Family Health Houses and nine Mobile Support Teams, reach currently around 420,000 people.

- UNFPA provides family planning supplies to 10 percent of health facilities countrywide.

- In 2007, the first Fistula Ward in Afghanistan opened at Malalai Maternity Hospital, Kabul with UNFPA support and training, and now reports a 95 percent success rate. More than 400 fistula cases have been treated in the last five years.

- UNFPA worked with the Ministry of Public Health to develop national family planning guidelines and undertake training for health service providers. With the support of UNFPA around 790 health workers were trained strengthening the family planning services in 350 health facilities throughout the country.