Reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health
UNICEF, the lead UN agency addressing newborns’ needs, works to expand services in existing health facilities and reach mothers and children in remote villages. UNICEF strengthens health facilities by providing training and essential newborn care equipment, deploying mobile health outreach teams to isolated areas, and creating specialized maternity ‘waiting homes and rooms’.
At the national level, UNICEF supports the development and roll-out of standardized national guidelines for community-based newborn care, as well as the introduction of zinc and oral rehydration solution co-packs for the treatment of diarrhoea at community level.
UNICEF works closely with the Ministry of Public Health, implementing partners and communities to immunize every child with life-saving vaccines against nine dangerous diseases, no matter how remote or inaccessible their location. To do so, UNICEF supports the Government to plan, build capacity, raise awareness, bring vaccines to children and eligible women, and make sure they are viable until administered.
UNICEF is one of the world's largest buyers of vaccines for children
UNICEF works with the Government to provide a ‘cold chain’ of storage equipment and refrigerators across the country, even in mountainous and difficult terrain, to guarantee that the vaccines retain their potency to prevent diseases.
While supporting the national immunization process from beginning to end, UNICEF also trains locally so that communities and local government can work independently in the future. UNICEF provides technical assistance to introduce new vaccines nationally as they are approved. In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health, UNICEF continues its effort to eradicate poliomyelitis from Afghanistan.
The power of information
Health-systems strengthening efforts can be less visible, but they are essential for the progress of public health.
One of the most effective ways to make sure Afghan children benefit from healthy habits and proper care is by helping local and national government effectively gather and use information. UNICEF is working with partners on a national quality of health care survey in all 34 provinces: the results will provide important data on obstetric and newborn quality care for the first time on this scale.
UNICEF also supported the Ministry of Public Health to use its data systems to track performance in Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH) Scorecards. Launched during Afghanistan’s Call to Action: A Promise Renewed in 2015, this scorecard provides quarterly data on performance for all of the 400 districts.
This research and evaluation work centred on children’s, newborns’ and women’s health can influence national policies and programmes. It encourages focus on the needs of vulnerable populations and influences funding and resources allocated to health programmes, particularly in the often-neglected area of newborn health.