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Public Health Minister: Providing Care In Afghanistan Is Challenging, But Essential

In an interview with NPR's Melissa Block, Suraya Dalil, Afghanistan's Acting Minister of Public Health, shared a sobering statistic: The probability a woman in the country will die from pregnancy and childbirth is one in eleven.

A decade ago, it was one in nine.

"We have made tremendous achievements for women in Afghanistan in the last nine years," she said. "However, the challenge is to sustain those achievements -- and to expand those achievements for women."

Over the last nine years, Afghanistan has opened hundreds of new health facilities. By Dalil's estimation, it now has about 1,800 clinics and hospitals.

Still, she said providing care in the country comes continues to be challenging and dangerous:

In the last nine months that I'm in office, I have witnessed health staff are being arrested. One of our provincial health directors was killed. One of our drivers was killed. We have seen those casualties and the impact of conflict.

Dalil said that, during her tenure thus far, she has recognized the importance of access to quality health care.

Although she and her staff have limited access to some parts of the country, they have learned how to negotiate with influential leaders and community elders.

Dalil said that she is mindful of how her works helps Afghan women and children, including her three daughters:

I will play my part to make sure that my children and children of Afghanistan, and girls in Afghanistan, have a better future than what we used to have.

I think it's everybody's responsibility in Afghanistan to make sure that happens.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.