“You are small, dear,” said Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) midwife Iline Ceelan to a girl about to give birth at the MSF Ahmed Shah Baba Hosptial in Kabul. She was a foot shorter than the other women walking around the maternity ward, her cheek pressed against a hospital bed, staring to the side.
“How old are you?”
The pregnant girl said she didn’t know. She was married a month after she started her period, and pregnant immediately after.
“I’d say she is twelve or thirteen years old,” Iline sighed, rubbing the girl’s lower back to provide some comfort for the long night ahead of her. “Which is somewhat common here.”
Young pregnancies are one of the reasons Afghanistan’s infant mortality rate has been reported as the highest in the world.