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The Afghan Family Health Book
Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Secretary Tommy Thompson,
Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky,
Mr. Tom Kalinske,
Ladies and gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure for me to join you in launching the Afghan Family Health Book. This project would have not been possible without the support and the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services.

I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to Secretary Thompson for his commitment to help the Afghan people.

Secretary Thompson, you have backed your commitment with solid actions. You, like Secretary Dobriansky, have traveled to Afghanistan to personally assess our needs, and have taken a personal interest to improve the health care sector in my country. We appreciate this very much.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Afghans were deprived of their basic human rights by foreign invasions, 3 decades of war, violence, and the terror and tyranny of Taliban. Access to basic health services was denied to most Afghans.

Consequently, Afghans have a life expectancy of 42 years, among the lowest in the world. Infant mortality is 165 per 1,000 life births. One out of five children dies before reaching the age of 5. Access to healthcare for women has relatively improved; but is still severely restricted in rural areas. 79% of the populations do not have access to safe drinking water. Afghanistan is among one the six remaining countries in the world, where polio, like landmines, still kill and maim many beautiful children, everyday. Other preventable and curable diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and measles continue to kill hundreds of adults.

The US Department of Health and Human Services, USAID, WHO, UNICEF, and a number of foreign and Afghan NGOs have helped improve access to health care. They provided funding for immunization campaigns. USAID is working with our Ministry of Health to improve capacity to extend services to remote areas. They have rebuilt hospitals and clinics in Kabul and key provinces, and provided them with some medical supplies and trained staff. But, today even in Kabul hospitals you still see 2 or 3 kids sharing one bed. Patients are bringing in their own medication and syringes. Those who cannot afford buying medication, are dying in the hospitals. Many clinics and hospitals do not have trained doctors and medical equipment for basic surgeries. Mental health care for a traumatized nation is almost non-existent. Patients with simple, curable and preventable medical problems die everyday.

The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council is strongly advocating for women mental health care projects. They are supportive of midwifery training, and maternal health education programs.

Basic health care education and disease prevention are our major priorities. We are grateful to Leapfrog Enterprises, Inc. for creating a unique health education program. It will serve as a very effective tool to educate Afghans, particularly women, about family health promotion and disease prevention.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Afghanistan is on the right path of transition to democracy and reconstruction. I renew President Karzaiā€™s appeal to the international community to help rebuild our health and education institutions.

The Afghan people are looking forward to their first free presidential election in October of this year. So far, 93% of the eligible voters are registered, 41% are women. A recent survey by the Asia Foundation found that 81 percent of Afghans are intended to vote. A major reason for Afghans' determination to vote is the rebirth of hope and optimism about their future and their country, and their trust to partnership with the US and the international community. Two out of three Afghans think Afghanistan is headed in the right direction. They give President Hamid Karzai a 62 percent job approval rating. 85 percent of the populations, across all regional and ethnic lines, favor him over any other leader in the country. Afghans have placed great faith in democracy. 77 percent say the election of a president and parliament will make a difference in their lives. A solid consensus of more than 80 percent supports equal rights under law, regardless of religion, ethnicity or gender.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Afghans are determined to rebuild their country. They have put their trust and hope on friendship and partnership with you. They are grateful for your assistance. They want to stand on their own feet as fast as possible. They will not be able to do it without your support.

Thank you.