– Release date: 21 March 2002
The Irish Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund, Mary Banotti, MEP, will leave Ireland tomorrow for a ten day visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The purpose of Ms Banotti's visit is to observe the work underway by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with Afghan girls and women. The visit is being co-ordinated by the Irish Family Planning Association, which is the UNFPA's partner in Ireland.
The UNFPA is working in the areas of primary health care, prevention and management of sexual violence, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, assisting women in childbirth, caring for infants and the provision of family planning.
According to Mary Banotti, "poverty, two decades of war and the anti-women policies of the Taliban regime have practically eradicated women's health care in Afghanistan, particularly in rural areas. As a result the maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the world, followed only by Sierra Leone.
"Women and girls are arriving at refugee camps are in desperate need of even the most basic sanitary supplies, such as sanitary protection and birth kits, comprising plastic sheets, a clean razor for cutting the umbilical cord and a piece of string for tying it.
"The UNFPA is carrying out critical work in saving the lives of women and girls, but it is only scratching the surface. Much more needs to be done. Governments throughout Europe, in making contributions to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, should not forget the important role reproductive health care can play in saving lives," said Mary Banotti.
During her ten days in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mary Banotti will visit maternity facilities in Kabul, refugee camps in Pakistan and she will also travel to the Khyber pass, which is the entry point for most Afghan refugees into Pakistan.
Useful Link: www.unfpa.org