With some 1,600 mothers dying per 100,000 births, Afghanistan has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, as per the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund).
In Badakhshan, 6,500 mothers out 100,000 die while giving birth - the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
Opium abuse exacerbates the situation, specialists say. Women who consume opium during pregnancy lose much of their energy and become vulnerable to different diseases.
Most addicted mothers suffer from asthma, coughing and lung problems which make them very weak to endure the burden of pregnancy.
Health workers say some addicted mothers also loose the chance of a future pregnancy because opium addiction damages their uterus.
Addiction has put a heavy financial burden on many poor families, plunging them deeper into poverty and social insecurity. "I've been spending 200 Afghani [US$4] on opium every day for the past seven years. I sold my land in order to afford my addiction," another addicted woman, Bibi Mullah, said.
Badakhshan, one of Afghanistan's most isolated, underdeveloped and poverty-stricken provinces, has a rugged terrain that impedes movement in its sparsely populated districts.
There is no official data about the number of drug addicts in Badakhshan. However, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) says one million people have drug addiction problems in Afghanistan of which 45,000 are women.
According to Mohammad Alim Yaqoobi, head of the UNODC office in Badakhshan, the majority of people in Badakhshan lack access to health services and awareness about the harm of opium addiction.
"People tend to consume opium as a painkiller. It takes time until they actually realise that opium itself is a disease and that they are addicted to it," added Yaqoobi.
Locals in the district say if health services were provided they would not use opium as a substitute for medicine.
In Yamgan and many other districts of Badakshan, donkeys are the only means of transport for the locals. A resident of Jokhan village in Yamgan District needs two days, either on foot or by donkey, to reach the nearest medical facility. Opium is thus considered a readily available option.
UNODC has been working in Badakhshan to raise the awareness of local population about the risks associated with opium addiction.
However, given the high rate of illiteracy in the estimated 900,000 population of Badakhshan, it is very difficult to maintain a robust public information campaign. Some 3,730 opium-addicted individuals who had received treatment in Badakhshan resumed opium consumption shortly after the rehabilitation, according to UNODC.
In: Afghanistan, News, Middle East
Tags: afghanistan, news, opium, poppy, heroin, addiction, war, drugs, women, children, health, gender issues, poverty, education
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