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New IRIN book on loss in childbirth

Cover photo of the New IRIN booklet on childbirth in Afghanistan
(Kate Holt/IRIN)

One of the most risky places in the world for a woman in pregnancy or childbirth is Afghanistan. An Afghan woman is 225 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in the UK, for example. There is hardly a family in Afghanistan that has not been touched by a tragic experience associated with childbirth.


In Veil of Tears, a 60-page colour booklet launched today, IRIN brings you a unique collection of personal stories of loss and courage in childbirth, as told by women, men and children from different parts of Afghanistan.

The stories were originally recorded in local languages, Dari and Pashto, for IRIN Radio broadcasts. Transcribed into English in Veil of Tears, they convey the immediacy and intimacy of the interviews conducted by IRIN reporters, who travelled in some cases for several days to reach the remotest villages in Afghanistan.

The testimonies in Veil of Tears offer some rarely reported perspectives on the issue of maternal mortality and as a compilation tell much about the state of today’s Afghanistan in the words of some of its most ordinary citizens.

The interviewees in the booklet talk about the struggle to get enough nutritious food to sustain a woman through pregnancy, and to feed their families on any given day; they describe the awesome distances and terrain that separate people living in the villages from the nearest health facility; they describe the lack of proper roads and transport that may leave a donkey cart as the only option to attempt a life-or-death journey with a pregnant wife or mother to a hospital; they explain the cultural and social rules that might mean decisions by men are made too late to save a woman and her baby.


Fact Box

One in eight Afghan women will probably die in childbirth
An Afghan woman is 225 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in UK
Only 25% of Afghan births are assisted by a skilled birth attendant
Fewer than 13,000 health workers serve an Afghan population of 28 million
For more, see IRIN’s regular reporting on Afghanistan

The women in these stories speak out, and some describe brave efforts to educate themselves against all the odds in order to fight for better reproductive health services for other women.

The Afghan government and its partners have made notable achievements, such as increasing the number of health facilities in the country from 400 in 2001 to 1,755 in 2008, and developing midwifery training programmes, but huge challenges remain to be tackled to make childbirth safer for Afghan women.

Veil of Tears showcases some of the work of IRIN’s Kabul-based radio project, which closed at the end of 2009 after six years of humanitarian radio production and journalistic capacity building in Afghanistan. IRIN’s radio work continues in Somalia, where we broadcast daily humanitarian news and information directly to Somalia on shortwave and via partner FM stations in the country.

Hardcopy versions of Veil of Tears are available in limited numbers. If you would like one, please write to us at [email protected]


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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