I start with a laugh, I end with a tear
May 12, 2007

 
The Aidworkers Network is an online community I read and contribute to regularly. Recently, a guy posted about possibilities for a post-aidwork life. It made me laugh out loud, especially the last one:
"Option 4. You retrain and change course. You take a massive pay cut. Your skills and experience in aid work go unused. You marry someone named Steve/Janice and drive something practical that "gets good mileage".

"Option 5. You write your memoirs and someone makes a movie out of it starring Leonardo De Caprio. You become an even more arrogant git, lose all your friends, and make a lot of cash. (This can happen to only one of us by the way).

"Option 6. Remember the lonely, jaded expat sat at the bar in [substitute 3rd world capital here], letching over young local girls and making snide remarks about your naive ways? Welcome to your future..."

Many of you have asked what I'm going to do after Afghanistan. Inshallah, I finish in mid August. For the rest of the year, I intend to sleep, eat, and be naked as much as possible, maybe even in public. In September, we go on a pre-honeymoon motorbike tour of Eastern Europe. In October, the big wedding party (you're coming, right?). In November, I'll present in Blackpool at a conference, then Stefan and I will spend a weekend in London, something we've never done together before. I might do a consulting job if I can do it from home and it drops in my lap. Beyond that... I don't know. Not professionally, anyway. I know only that I'd like to move back to the states some time in 2008.

So, let's run down my health in Afghanistan so far:

And not only is there a feature article in the latest issue of the Kabul Scene magazine about three different parasitic worm that's common here, but there was another article online recently about a sand flea that causes massive skin lesions which, even if cured, leave scar tissue.

As I lay in the back examination room of the German clinic, waiting for the anti-cramping meds to kick in, I started looking at the large map on the wall of the male human body's muscles. And then I noticed that, over the most famous male muscle, someone had put a tiny bit of cardboard. Yes, THAT's how conservative this country is. Geesh.

Don't laugh, but there's something called The World Toilet organization (love the logo), and the poor sanitation of Kabul that this organization is trying to address is the reason I keep getting sick - and why so many babies die here in Afghanistan.

Did you know that Afghanistan has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world? UNICEF estimates that the country has 165 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality rates during childbirth are placed at 1,600 to 1,700 per 100,000 live births. UNICEF estimates that more than a half million Afghan women die in childbirth each year. Every woman faces a one in six chance of dying in pregnancy during her lifetime. Because so many women die in childbirth or don't receive basic health care, the average lifespan for an Afghan woman is 45. Under the rule of the Taliban, womenıs health care and education were neglected, and no midwives were trained. Consequently, when the regime fell in 2001, there remained just 467 trained midwives in the *entire* country. In Afghanistan, being pregnant can be a death sentence.

If you want to support a program in Afghanistan that trains midwives or community health workers, just use Google - there are lots of programs... though not enough... it will take 20 years for this country to catch up...

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