Under Taliban rule in the 1990s, women in Afghanistan were barred from attending school. Because law and tradition also prevented them from receiving treatment from male doctors, most women gave birth at home, often without a skilled attendant. According to World Bank data, by 2002, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth-related…
Laila* is a 13-year-old girl from a rural, mountainous province in central Afghanistan. Growing up, she had dreams to attend school and one day become a teacher. Instead, because of an agreement her parents had with another family, she entered into an arranged marriage when she was just 11 years old. After having sexual contact, she developed a fistula—this happened before her 12th birthday.
Her injury, which caused her to leak urine uncontrollably, made life with her husband’s family extremely difficult. “My mother-in-law said to me, ‘You are too smelly, and people don’t want to come to our house because of you,’” she says. “I was crying softly all the time, and stopped drinking for one and a half years. I stayed unmoving on the floor and survived by little bread and tea. I was also beaten by my husband. It was better to die than to have this problem.”
Sadly, her parents were not allowed to visit her because of the marriage agreement—both families had exchanged their daughters. Finally, with the help of their village elder, her father was given permission to bring Laila to Kabul for treatment at Cure International Hospital.
Our partners at Cure report that when she arrived, Laila was severely malnourished, unable to walk, and severely depressed. Once she was healthy enough to undergo surgery, the surgeons there were able to successfully repair her fistula. Although her physical injury has healed and Laila is no longer incontinent, she remains at the hospital, where she can receive ongoing psychological counseling. She feels as if she has been given life again. And one day, if her family is successful in finding a way to legally bring her back home, she may truly have a second chance at life.
- Population: 33,332,025
- Average Births per Woman: 5.22
- Female Literacy: 24.2%
- Population Living in Poverty: 36% (less than $1.25/day)