BASICS Afghanistan Hands Over Child Survival Activities to Ministry of Health

The MSH-led, USAID-funded, BASICS project in Afghanistan, which will end on September 30, has worked closely with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) to build policies and initiate interventions for child survival. The project’s biggest success, however, has been handing over all of its activities to the MOPH’s Child and Adolescent Health Department. BASICS Afghanistan has worked itself out of a job.

BASICS Afghanistan began working with the MOPH in early 2008 to evaluate gaps in child health care in the Afghan system. It uncovered outdated protocols for managing child illness, lack of training, and other problems at all levels, from hospitals to the community. In three years, BASICS Afghanistan has directly addressed these problems by developing a full suite of policies and training materials for child survival in Afghanistan and implementing a wide array of interventions aimed at integration of services and improved behavior-change communication.

The Afghan MOPH now bases its efforts on a revised child and adolescent health policy, a public nutrition policy and strategy, an infant and young child feeding policy and strategy, and an action plan for improved case management of diarrhea. It uses up-to-date training materials to improve the performance of its employees in areas such as community-based growth-monitoring; essential newborn care; behavior-change communication; and integrated management of childhood illness (IMCI), which links health services at all levels.

With these foundational tools and assistance from BASICS Afghanistan, the MOPH has been able to implement an Integrated Child Survival Package, which improves prevention, monitoring, and treatment of child illness at all levels. After initially introducing the package in five demonstration districts, the MOPH has expanded it to 28 districts with a population of nearly 1 million people and is currently in the process of further expanding it to 54 districts, covering nearly 15 percent of all districts in the country.

To facilitate this work, BASICS developed an innovative approach to disseminating information: Because more than three-quarters of Afghan women cannot read, BASICS designed illustrated health practice charts to help them absorb information and put it into action.

The MOPH has also implemented a community-based program for child immunization, empowering communities to determine barriers to immunization and plan for improvements, and an initiative in hospitals to improve triage for children, meant to cut down on the number of child deaths in hospitals. Additionally, the MOPH has helped institutionalize child survival by establishing national and provincial maternal and child survival committees.

After BASICS leaves Afghanistan, the MOPH will continue to strengthen its child survival programs, coordinating the efforts of its Child and Adolescent Health Department and other departments, including its Community-Based Health Care Department and Reproductive Health Department. BASICS will celebrate its success and the success of the MOPH in building the necessary capacity for a complete hand-off of the project. 

Despite the challenges of access and insecurity that remain, the future state of child health in Afghanistan looks hopeful.