Survey: Afghans living longer, fewer infants die

November 30, 2011 - 5:26 AM
Afghanistan

An Afghan Man, left, helps his father to move a cart loaded with water supplies for their family in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov, 28, 2011. (AP Photo / Ahmad Jamshid)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans are living longer, fewer infants are dying and more women are surviving childbirth because health care has dramatically improved around the country in the past decade, according to a national survey released Wednesday.

The survey indicates that increased access to health care in Afghanistan, more hospitals and clinics and more trained health care workers and doctors have significantly contributed to an overall improvement in the health of most Afghans.

"There have been many changes in the health sector and that is why we have so many positive changes," said Bashir Noormal, director general of the Afghan Public Health Institute.

Conducted by the Afghan Health Ministry in 2010, the survey was sponsored and funded by international organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the U.S. government and the British Department for International Development. The survey was the most comprehensive to date in Afghanistan despite the exclusion of some rural areas in the south where international forces are fighting insurgents.

It showed that the estimated life expectancy is up to between 62 and 64 years for both men and women. That compares with previous studies that showed life expectancy from 47 to 50 — the latter figure reported by the WHO in 2009.

More importantly, the survey showed that infant mortality has been cut in half in recent years, and is now down to 97 deaths per 1,000 live births. The survey said one in 10 children in Afghanistan dies before they are five years old while previous surveys, carried out about five years ago, showed that one in five died before reaching that age. The 2009 WHO study reported 199 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Women in this war-ravaged country also are far more likely to survive pregnancy today. The survey indicated that the number of women who die from pregnancy related causes has dropped to one in every 50.

Still, one Afghan women dies about every two hours from pregnancy related causes and while childhood mortality is decreasing, it remains the highest in the region.

"Risks associated with pregnancy and delivery are higher for Afghan women than for women in neighboring countries," the survey said.