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KABUL – UNFPA Executive Director Dr.  Babatunde Osotimehin chose Afghanistan and Bangladesh as the first developing countries in Asia to visit. Both are considered high priority for the global programme to improve maternal, child and newborn health, Every Woman, Every Child.

During his three days in Afghanistan, Dr. Osotimehin shared his concerns about human rights and gender-based violence with Vice-President Karim Khalili, Second Vice-President of Afghanistan. The Executive Director then took part in a round table on gender with representatives of civil society, Afghan institutions and international organizations. The forum underlined UNFPA’s commitment to helping nations enhance their equity and to empower poor and marginalized people, especially women and adolescents. It focused on gender-based violence and women’s security during the transition process, as well as women’s political participation and empowerment.

Meeting with many different stakeholders

Dr. Osotimehin took part in a second round table that enabled young Afghans to interact with him directly. There he stressed UNFPA’s commitment to giving young people, especially adolescent girls, the attention they deserved. “To help young people, particularly young girls, to stay in school, stay healthy and free from unwanted pregnancies and HIV, postpone family formation until they are ready and eventually enter the labour market with skills to earn an income and contribute to economic growth are among UNFPA priorities,” said Dr. Osotimehin.

The Executive Director also visited a Community Midwifery Educational Programme in Kabul. Supported by UNFPA, the school trains students from remote communities that are beyond the reach of existing facilities. Upon graduation, they are sent to their communities to run family health houses that provide basic reproductive health-focused health services. He was accompanied by Dr. Nadera Hayat Burhani, Deputy Minister for Health-care Services Provision. UNFPA has been active in supporting maternal health in Afghanistan, where women face a one in eleven lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth.

Dr. Osotimehin then held a meeting with the President of the Central Statistics Organization (CSO), Abdul Rahman Ghafoori, where he assured Afghanistan of UNFPA’s continued support to strengthen the national statistical system and capacity to collect, analyse and use data for development. UNFPA has provided technical support that has helped the country undertake surveys and important statistical exercises.

On to Bangladesh

The Executive Director will next visit Bangladesh, where he plans to meet with the Prime Minister, government officials, youth representatives and academicians to mobilize support for improving maternal, newborn and child health. In Bangladesh, Dr. Osotimehin also plans to visit a community clinic, observe an informal meeting for pregnant women, see how the country is integrating family planning with other primary care, and visit a district hospital.