Saving Women's Lives in Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan: Every year, 23,000 Afghan mothers die in childbirth. What should be one of life's most joyous events instead turns tragic, when one in six women die annually during labor. Countless numbers of children die with them. Even more staggering is that over half of all deaths among Afghan women between the ages of 15 and 49 are a direct result of pregnancy and childbirth. Though poverty, instability and war have significantly contributed to this appalling statistic, without strong hospital and clinical management and infection prevention, giving birth will remain the leading cause of death for Afghan women.

For forty years, these women's voices, coupled with those of their children and families, have echoed through the halls of Malalai Maternity Hospital. As the country's largest referral center dedicated to the obstetrical and gynecologic care of women and site of approximately 80 deliveries per day, Malalai Hospital has worked diligently to become a focal institution for women's health since the fall of the Taliban.

Through MSH's Rural Expansion of Afghanistan's Community-Based Healthcare (REACH) Program, led by the Ministry of Health with support from USAID, massive efforts are being made to improve the quality of care at the 270-bed Malalai Hospital by supporting activities for improved patient care, education and training, including:

  • Strengthening clinical care through improved supervision of patient care and application of international best practices for managing pregnancy
  • Infection prevention for both staff and patients
  • Establishment of Centers of Excellence to support training in Emergency Obstetric Care
  • Educating midwife students and establishing midwifery training centers
  • Formation of key hospital management committees and implementation of "standards-based management" based on National Clinical Standards
  • Expansion of learning resources, including models, teaching tools and a learning laboratory for students and trainers
  • Refresher training of doctors, nurses and midwives

Practicing midwives from throughout Afghanistan arrive at Kabul's Malalai Maternity Hospital for refresher training supported by USAID/REACH. Photo by Massoud Ebadat, REACHThe partnership between Malalai and the Ministry of Health through USAID/REACH demonstrates Malalai's long-standing commitment to the health of Afghanistan's women. As high-quality education and training for doctors and midwives further enhances the quality of care offered to Afghan women, USAID/REACH joins Malalai staff in strengthening its commitment to progressive and continued improvements in hospital management, infection prevention and clinical management. In an environment where staff works tirelessly to apply international best practices, a continued focus on human resource development offers an opportunity to amplify REACH input at Malalai well beyond Kabul and the central region. REACH's work could ultimately benefit the women and children of Afghanistan at large.

USAID/REACH partners include:
Management Sciences for Health, JHPIEGO/John Hopkins University, Technical Assistance, Inc., Academy for Educational Development, HANDS, USAID