After more than two decades of war, the health of Afghanistan's people is ranked among the worst in the world. More than 800 children die every day, largely from preventable diseases. Nearly 1 in 4 Afghan children will not reach his or her fifth birthday, and their mothers do not fare much better. An Afghan woman is 100 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related problems than her American counterpart. These deaths are preventable.

Access to safe medicines is a major global public health challenge. Today, one-third of the world's population lacks access to essential medicines. And in parts of Africa almost half the population cannot get necessary drugs. Each year, more than 10 million children die before the age of five from diseases and conditions that are largely preventable, or easily treated with medicines. In sub-Saharan Africa, a mother in a rural community may walk hours to reach the nearest clinic, only to be told the medicines she needs to treat her sick child are not available.

Twenty-three years of war and conflict has largely destroyed Afghanistan's health infrastructure. Today, one in four children dies from preventable causes before reaching the age of five. The number of women dying in childbirth is among the highest in the world, at 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births. In the United States, this figure is approximately 12 deaths per 100,000 live births.  As Afghanistan's Ministry of Health begins to reconstruct the country's health sector, one of its top priorities is improving these maternal and child mortality rates. In December 2002, Dr.