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In the 1990s, 8 percent of Afghans had access to health care. Now, almost 85 percent have it.
KABUL, Afghanistan - Six years after the Taliban's ouster, medical care in Afghanistan has improved such that nearly 90,000 children who would have died before age 5 in 2001 will survive this year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday.
Saddled for years with one of the world's worst records on child health, Afghanistan has seen access to health care rise dramatically since the U.S.-led invasion.
Thousands of health clinics have been built across the country, and the Afghan government and aid agencies have trained tens of thousands of doctors, vaccinators and health volunteers who now reach into some of the country's most remote areas.
Access to health care for Afghans has jumped from 8 percent of the population in the 1990s to close to 85 percent today, thanks in large part to efforts by USAID, the World Bank and the European Commission.
The under-5 child mortality rate in Afghanistan has declined from an estimated 257 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2001 to about 191 per 1,000 in 2006, a 25 percent drop, the Ministry of Public Health said, relying on a new study from Johns Hopkins University.
President Hamid Karzai, surrounded by Afghan children at a news conference in Kabul, thanked aid organizations and health workers for their work. He said 89,000 children will be saved each year because of the improved health care.
Afghanistan still faces severe problems. Even now, almost one in five Afghan children will die before age 5, translating into 250,000 childhood deaths a year, mostly from malnutrition, diarrhea, tuberculosis and malaria, said Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatimi.
USAID has spent $309-million since 2002 to improve health services in 13 of Afghanistan's northern provinces, said Julie Fossler, a spokeswoman for USAID.
The UNICEF report noted that, like Afghanistan, most of the countries with the worst child mortality rates have suffered from armed conflict.
[Last modified November 5, 2007, 00:46:36]