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Bamyan maternity waiting home: A safe place to give birth in Afghanistan

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Walther
The head of Bamyan Provincial Hospital and a local midwife inaugurate the Bamyan Maternity Waiting Home, part of a larger effort to reduce maternal mortality in Afghanistan.

BAMYAN, Afghanistan, 12 July 2010 – “This place is needed in Bamyan like water in the desert,” said Dr. Hamed Nazim, head of Bamyan Provincial Hospital. “In the past, not enough care was taken of mothers. This will change now.”

Together with UNICEF, representatives of the provincial government, religious leaders and local women, Dr. Nazim last week inaugurated the Bamyan Maternity Waiting Home, which aims to provide a safe place for women during the final stage of pregnancy. It is part of Afghanistan’s Maternity Waiting Home project, launched in 2007 in six provinces to bridge the gap between rural areas with poor access to skilled care and urban areas where maternal health services are available.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Walther
Zoubaida-jan, a trained birth attendant and head of the women council in her village in Bamyan province, Afghanistan.

“This facility is a true proof of our joint efforts” said Bamyan Deputy Governor Haji Qasim. “Our communities have bought the land, while UNICEF and the Ministry of Public Health provided funding for construction, supplies and the first year’s operating costs. Together, we must make this endeavour a success for the mothers of Bamyan.”

Saving women’s lives
In his remarks at the opening of the Maternity Waiting Home, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Peter Crowley pointed out that every 30 minutes an Afghan woman dies from pregnancy of childbirth-related causes – giving Afghanistan one of world’s highest rates of maternal death.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Walther
A woman on her way to the nearest health centre must travel far in Afghanistan's rural Bamyan province.

“Almost all of these deaths are preventable;” he said. “This Maternity Waiting Home can only be effective if it is linked effectively with other efforts. By providing a continuum of home, community, outreach and facility-based care, we can address every stage of maternal, newborn and child health.”

The best available estimates suggest that 98 percent of deliveries in Bamyan take place at home, with over 320 maternal deaths occurring each year – making this one of the 10 highest-risk Afghan provinces in which to give birth. “Very few women give birth in a clinic or a hospital. That’s why this Maternity Waiting Home is designed to be a place like home;” explained Dr. Ihsanullah Shahir, the provincial health director.

Partners help raise awareness

To promote use of Bamyan’s new Maternity Waiting Home, a series of awareness-raising sessions has been initiated in area health centres, schools and mosques. Partners include a network of local non-governmental organizations involved in Basic Public Health Services, the Integrated Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition Programme, the Women’s Affairs Network and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

“Mullahs in this province fully support the project;” said Baba Mohseny, speaking on behalf of Bamyan’s religious leaders. “To save a mother means to save a family, which is equivalent to saving the whole world.”



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