A widowed wife, a struggling mother, a baby fighting for life
When young Zaynab’s new baby was born premature, a new UNICEF-supported neonatal ward in Afghanistan was her lifeline
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – “When I was four months pregnant, my husband died.”
At only 26 years old, Zaynab was in mourning. She had lost the love of her life, and the sole financial provider for her family. She struggled to afford healthy food for herself and became malnourished, giving birth to a premature baby who need oxygen to stay alive.
“My husband was a shopkeeper. We were poor, but happy,” Zaynab recalls. “We promised to be with each other forever.”
Soon after marriage, the couple was expecting a baby boy. The dreamt of becoming a family of three… but this dream never came true.
“When my husband died, I was so overwhelmed. I could not even breathe, and my world became dark.”
At four months pregnant, Zaynab wondered how she would be able to financially support herself. She was stressed, pressured, and sad. Her mental health deteriorated. She had little to eat and could not give herself the medicine she needed most – a healthy meal to nourish herself and her baby.
Zaynab developed high blood pressure and began to bleed before she was due to give birth. The doctors said they might not be able to save her son.
“I told them: ‘I lost my husband; I do not want to lose my baby, too.’”
The doctors performed a Caesarian section, and Zaynab gave birth to baby Mohammad… one month too early.
Mohammad was too weak to breastfeed and in desperate need of oxygen. He also had three holes in his heart, adding fear and desperation to Zaynab’s growing concern for her baby.
Luckily, Zaynab was able to bring little Mohammad to Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul, where UNICEF recently supported renovations of the neonatal intensive care unit. With support from the Irish Government funding provided by Irish Aid, UNICEF also provided oxygen for the new ward, plus essential medical equipment like incubators.
Indira Gandhi Hospital cares for 20-25 premature babies every day – around 700 each month. It is one of the only hospitals in Kabul with appropriate facilities and equipment to attend to the specific healthcare needs of babies born premature.
When Mohammad was there, the unit was full, treating 70 babies.
24 days have passed since Mohammad first opened his eyes. The holes in his heart have been healed, and he uses a lot less oxygen now.
With the renovations to this ward, doctors can provide better quality healthcare for mothers and children. Mothers like Zaynab can bring their children here and feel hopeful and comforted, knowing their babies have the care they need.
For Zaynab, the new neonatal intensive care unit was the difference between losing her entire family and holding on to hope for her own future and her family’s.
“Mohammad is safe now,” Zaynab says, relieved. “And he is recovering day by day.”