The following is a statement from J. Martin Tucker, MD, FACOG, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Edward Morris, MD, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, on the unfolding situation in Afghanistan.
“We are deeply concerned about the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and the immediate threat posed to the rights, safety, and ability to access health care for all Afghans, especially women and girls and those who are LGBTQ+. As medical organizations, we fully support the World Health Organization’s call to ensure people can continue to access health care during this turbulent time.
“Against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that health care staff have the support and freedom to continue treating those in need, including those in need of gynecologic and obstetric care, without fear of reprisal or harm. The country’s instability creates huge implications for the safe provision of health care, and it is critical that aid agencies continue to be granted the ability to provide humanitarian assistance uninterrupted.
“History tells us that women and girls and those who are LGBTQ+ in Afghanistan are now at greater risk of gender-based violence and they are at grave risk of having their education disrupted and sexual and reproductive rights violated. Over the past two decades, there has been significant progress made to gender and sexual equality in Afghanistan; it would be devastating to see these rights quashed.
“One particular area that improved considerably over the last 20 years is quality and safety with regard to maternity care. Maternal mortality rates, while still high in comparison to other parts of the world, have improved dramatically. In 2000, there were an estimated 1,450 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, which dropped to 638 per 100,000 in 2017. It is vitally important that the hard work carried out over the last two decades to reduce maternal and pregnancy-related deaths survive and transcend the transition in government, and that those who are pregnant receive the best care possible.
“We continue to encourage our own Fellows and members to support the health care needs and welfare of refugees by providing them with compassionate, patient-centered care that recognizes the impact of trauma on their lives and well-being.”