Thursday, February 4, 2010

Irish Times: Concern over deaths linked to pregnancy in Afghanistan


Thu, Feb 04, 2010

THE DEATH rate among women and girls in Afghanistan due to pregnancy and childbirth is like a “silent tsunami”, an Oireachtas committee was told yesterday.

Dr Shinkai Zahin Karokhail, an Afghan MP, addressed the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, urging members to press the Government and the EU to direct aid towards non-military and women’s organisations in Afghanistan.

Her visit to Ireland comes against the backdrop of concern among Afghan women’s groups at an EU plan to offer the Taliban a share of $500 million if they lay down their arms.

“For sure it is the women in Afghanistan who are best placed to improve the situation of all people there. But no one is thinking about how to invest in women’s and girls’ education.”

She said despite improvements in the situation of women and girls in her country since the fall of the Taliban, women’s rights remained a low priority.

Some 90 per cent of women suffered some form of domestic violence while the country had the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. “The death rates among women and girls caused by unsafe pregnancies and deliveries is like a silent tsunami.

“My concern is how to get the message to the Irish Government and the EU to support the Government of Afghanistan and how the aid should be non-militarised and spent by non-military NGOs.”

Seán Ardagh TD said he was “absolutely horrified” at the report that 90 per cent of Afghan women suffered domestic violence. Senator David Norris said some of the information given “calls into question the moral authority of President Karzai.

Ireland has committed €20 million in aid to Afghanistan over the next three years.

© 2010 The Irish Times