Hospital Maternity Ward Reopens
| The first
baby born in Khair
The small maternity and children’s hospital,
serving a large, impoverished area of Kabul, was renovated
and refurbished by
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Work was carried
out by the Italian NGO Intersos.
During the eight months that
the maternity ward was closed for badly needed improvement,
UNFPA supported the operations
of a Danish Emergency Mobile Hospital near Khair Khana. The
hospital treated 200-300 patients a day with trauma care,
selective surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology; and trained
over 100 local
staff members. Between July and December, almost 1,500 babies
were delivered at the facility.
| Maternity ward prior to renovation.
Prior to the renovation,
sanitation was very poor, rooms were overcrowded and improperly
building materials were
worn out and difficult to clean, and equipment was inadequate
or in disrepair; there was no working anaesthetic machine
for women who needed surgery and no ultrasound equipment for
antenatal follow-up and diagnosis. (See UNFPA
Now the hospital is fully equipped.
UNFPA is participating
in Afghanistan's reconstruction as part of the integrated
United Nations assistance mission. Priorities
identified together with the Ministry of Public Health and
the Ministry of Women's Affairs include strengthening maternal
health services and girls’ education, with an initial focus
on rebuilding health and education infrastructure.
| Facade of new hospital.
at the request of the Ministry of Public Health and with
funding from the Netherlands, UNFPA supported a crucial
assessment of reproductive health care throughout the country,
undertaken by the Japanese NGO Health and Development Services
(HANDS). This was part of a comprehensive survey of health
facilities, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development,
the European Commission, the Japanese International Cooperation
Agency and UNFPA. Surveyors visited 1,038 health facilities,
2,952 community-based health providers and 1,149 pharmacies.
The data will be used to determine needs and assistance priorities.
After decades of devastating conflict, Afghanistan
lacks the basic population and housing data necessary for development
planning and the democratic process. The only attempt to conduct
a national census, in 1976-79, was never completed. To address
this shortcoming, UNFPA has been named as the United Nations’
lead agency to support preparations for a national Population
and Housing Census.
Work is under way on a Household
Listing Exercise, which constitutes the first phase of
this effort. It is scheduled to be completed
by March 2004.
The UNFPA office in Kabul has begun to strengthen
and revitalize the Central Statistics Office, providing data
and organizing training for the staff in computer literacy,
cartography and census fieldwork.
The pilot phase of the census
started in January 2003 in Kunduz Province, after vehicles
and other field equipment had been
put in place, questionnaires designed for field testing,
and field staff trained for their role. This work has been
Teams will soon be dispatched to three additional provinces.
International donors—including Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland
and Norway—have pledged to provide most of the $7.5 million
estimated funding requirements for the first phase of the
In addition to direct support to the Afghan Ministry of Health,
UNFPA works closely with a number of nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) working to improve women’s health in Afghanistan. NGOs
play a significant role in providing health care in Afghanistan,
especially in underserved and remote areas. A number of national
and international NGOs have years of experience and well-established
networks. UNFPA is helping them increase access to quality
reproductive health services and emergency obstetric care,
providing needed supplies, and supporting training activities.
Last year the Fund supplied a variety of contraceptives to
20 NGOs active in reproductive health service delivery in 22
provinces. Using reproductive health supplies provided by UNFPA,
some NGOs—including the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan,
Hope Worldwide, the International
Medical Corps, Merlin, Ibn
Sina and the Afghan Red Crescent Society—offer basic as well
as comprehensive emergency obstetric care. Several NGOs have
also used UNFPA-provided supplies in the training of traditional
birth attendants and of government health personnel in emergency
In 2002, the Fund started a new project with the Swedish Committee
for Afghanistan, aimed at improving the delivery of mother
and child health services (antenatal care, postnatal care,
reproductive health and family planning, nutrition and immunization
services) in clinics run by the committee. Project activities
Providing basic emergency obstetric care to
remote rural Afghan communities;
Providing health education
to women of childbearing age, through traditional birth attendants.
Training traditional birth attendants and other female
health professionals in reproductive health and family planning;
Mobilizing community health committees to address maternal
and child health concerns.
In recent months, UNFPA has also provided contraceptives and
clean delivery supplies to:
Ibn Sina, an NGO that provides
primary health care services in 41 clinics around the country;
Médecins du Monde, which supports maternal
and child health clinics collaboration with the Afghan Ministry
Afghanistan Red Crescent Society, which offers maternal
and child health care as an integral part of its primary
health clinics, and trains traditional birth attendants;
MeRU Afghanistan, which has established two rural maternal
and child health clinics and a health centre providing
comprehensive emergency obstetric care in Balkh province;
Terre des Hommes, which offers home-based midwifery services
including prenatal and postnatal care, delivery, family
planning and health education in Kabul;
and Rehabilitation Organization, which trains traditional
Hope World Wide, which supports a number
of maternal and child health clinics and one hospital
Medical Corps, which provides specialized care for mothers
as well as children through a network of primary
health care facilities.
With its partners, UNFPA continues to support measures to
reduce maternal mortality among Afghan refugees, tens of thousands
of whom remain in camps and refugee settlements in Pakistan’s
North-west Frontier, Baluchistan and Punjab Provinces. Supplies
are provided for clean home delivery and for deliveries in
camps’ basic health units. Support is also provided for staff
training and emergency obstetric care referrals.
At the request of the newly established Afghanistan
Human Rights Commission, UNFPA last year provided funding to
a Women’s Rights Unit within the Commission. In addition, it
supported the Commission in organizing three workshops on a
wide range of issues related to promoting women’s rights.
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