Afghanistan aims to save 35,000 additional lives by 2020

In December 2013, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed the A Promise Renewed Pledge, committing to reduce preventable deaths among women and children. This week, Afghanistan followed through on this commitment by launching the Kabul Declaration, setting out specific commitments on maternal and child survival and reiterating government support for the goals of ending preventable maternal and child mortality.

Delegates at APR launch event

Over 350 delegates attended the A Promise Renewed event in Kabul

Afghanistan has made important progress on maternal and child mortality in recent years. Between 1990 and 2013, child mortality has decreased by 46 per cent and neonatal mortality (within the first 28 days of life) has declined by 29 per cent. Maternal mortality fell by 67 per cent over the same period. Nevertheless, child mortality rates remain high, at 97 deaths per 1000 live births (2013), and Afghanistan was ranked 180 of 195 countries on child mortality in 2013.

The Kabul Declaration was launched at the “Call to Action: Renewing the promise for Maternal and Child Survival” event, which took place in Kabul, Afghanistan this week. Organized jointly by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, UNICEF and Aga Khan University, the event was attended by national and international participants, including key government officials, policy makers and experts from a range of relevant fields. The event, which began on Sunday and ended on Tuesday, was opened by Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer, H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah

H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah opens the Call to Action conference in Kabul.

A frontline health worker from the Bamyan province signs the Pledge to renew promises to maternal and child health

The Kabul Declaration, launched on the final day of the event, sets out important commitments for 2020 including family planning, increasing skilled birth attendance, vaccination coverage, treatment of malnutrition and emergency care for sick newborns.

Swedish Professor Hans Rosling, co-founder of Gapminder and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012, delivered a presentation during the Kabul event, emphasizing Afghanistan’s extraordinary progress despite challenging circumstances, but noted that the country still had a long way to go.

Professor Hans Rosling

Professor Hans Rosling talks about maternal and child mortality in Afghanistan.

Akhil Iyer, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan commended Afghanistan’s commitment in joining A Promise Renewed, noting ‘It is within our power to make a difference’ and emphasizing the potential for further progress: ‘Together, we can end preventable maternal and child deaths. We can achieve results by improving maternal and newborn healthcare services, strengthening health systems, improving sanitation and malnutrition, and ending child marriage.’

UNICEF Representative Akhil Ayer

Akhil Iyer, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan addresses the delegates at the Call to Action


Katie Taylor, deputy Agency Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator and a deputy assistant administrator for the Bureau for Global Health at USAID, spoke at the event, emphasizing the positive benefits of investment in health, noting that a wealth of studies show that investment in health – especially by increasing life expectancy – is closely linked with improved productivity, poverty reduction, and economic growth

Afghanistan’s launch of A Promise Renewed makes it the thirtieth country to launch A Promise Renewed, an important demonstration of commitment to the goal of ending preventable maternal, newborn and child mortality.

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To read the full text of the Kabul Declaration, click here.

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