MSH awarded $100 million USAID contract to continue work to improve access to health services in Afghanistan

BOSTON, MA (JUNE 16, 2003) — After more than two decades of war, the health of Afghanistan's people is among the worst in the world. More than 800 children die every day, largely from preventable causes. Nearly 1 in 4 Afghan children will not reach his or her fifth birthday, and their mothers do not fare much better. An Afghan woman is 100 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related problems than her American counterpart. These deaths are not only preventable but are also a reflection of the poor access to basic health services, and insufficient health education and awareness.

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) has been awarded a three-year, $100 million contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to address the health care needs of Afghan families. Working with the Afghanistan Ministry of Health and local and international partners, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) will work to improve the lives of Afghan families and to strengthen the national health system.

Entitled "Rural Expansion of Afghanistan's Community-based Healthcare", or REACH, the program's goal is to save lives and improve the health of women of reproductive age and of children under five years by ensuring that an estimated 16.5 million people throughout Afghanistan have access to a basic package of health services. The REACH program will focus on the delivery of crucial health services to underserved provinces of Afghanistan.

According to Dr. Ferozudeen Feroz, Afghanistan's Deputy Minister of Health, "Health is a sound investment, with high rates of return in individual well-being, national productivity, international peace and security… A nation can not be secure and it can not rebuild the nation's infrastructure when the health of its families is in grave danger."

As part of the effort to expand services to those who have none, the U.S. Agency for International Development has committed, through their Rehabilitation of Economic Facilities and Services (REFS) Program to construct and/or renovate 550 health centers. As centers are completed, the REACH Program will ensure health services are available from these centers by providing grants to both international and local non-governmental organizations to equip, staff and supply the health centers. The REACH grants will also fund these organizations to train and support both male and female community health workers within communities located more than five kilometers (a little over 3 miles) from the health centers.

"In a country where strong social traditions prevent women from being seen by males, increasing the number of women health workers is crucial to any effort to increase women's access to health services," said Ron O'Connor, founder and CEO of Management Sciences for Health. "And since most people in Afghanistan must travel by foot to reach distant health facilities, there is a critical need for health services within communities if the high maternal and child mortality rates are to be reduced."

Other key components of the REACH program include working directly with the Ministry of Health to improve their capacity to manage and lead the health sector. Areas of focus will include health planning, management, and allocation of resources at the national, provincial and district levels; human resource development, recruitment and deployment; pharmaceutical management, quality improvement; and health information systems management.

"The health needs of Afghanistan's families are great, but with continued support from the international community and dedicated efforts by the Ministry of Health and its partners, their needs can be met over the long-term," said O'Connor.