When the UN meets this week to discuss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), maternal mortality will be high on the agenda. Cutting maternal mortality by three quarters is the MDG most severely off track, with half a million women still dying in childbirth every year most of them needlessly.
Progress in reducing maternal mortality is the most important measure of success in the fight against poverty, said Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada. 'In the poorest regions of Afghanistan, like Badakhshan, the maternal mortality rate is an unbelievable 6,500 per 100,000 - the highest in the world. Compare that to Canada's at 5 per 100,000 live births.
Oxfam took top photojournalist Alixandra Fazzina to Afghanistan's remote Badakhshan province, to meet and photograph the families behind the statistics.
A traditional birth attendant in Khordakon village, Badakhshan told Oxfam that before her training she used to use flints for cutting and piles of earth for soaking up blood. Now she uses plastic gloves and sheeting and clean razors and needles, but access to these items in Badakhshan is difficult. "I always reassure the women in delivery, she said, 'but there is nothing I can really do".
- 25,000 women die every year due to pregnancy-related complications one every 27 minutes
- Over 90% of deliveries take place at home and only 9% of deliveries are attended by skilled health personnel.
- Since 2002, over 2,000 midwives have been trained but Afghanistan requires another 8,000 to 10,000 midwives to reach its target of one midwife per 2,500-3,000 people
Fox said: 'Afghanistan has made great strides, but remains the most dangerous of all countries for women giving birth.