The Centre provides free-of-charge, high-quality healthcare in an area with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. Over the years we have won the trust of local Afghans, who are more and more convinced every day of the importance of specialised maternal healthcare. As many as 500 babies are now born every month at the Maternity Centre – that’s almost 17 a day. The Centre’s services are in high demand, but not only from local women; 77% of patients admitted come from outside the local province, Panjshir. In addition, the number of newborn babies admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit has been steadily increasing in recent years; currently there is an average of 170 admissions each month.
For every 100,000 live births in Afghanistan, about 400 mothers will die. Though this maternal mortality ratio is a fraction of its earlier levels, it is still one of the highest in the world. But here’s the thing: most of these deaths are preventable. One of the major reasons they continue to happen is because women don’t have access to specialised maternal healthcare. That’s why EMERGENCY’s Maternity Centre is open 24/7, and is always free-of-charge.
To provide access to women living in more remote areas, EMERGENCY has also created a network of First Aid Posts (FAPs) and Primary Health Clinics (PHCs) spread over the Panjshir Valley and the surrounding provinces. Through these, international and national midwives monitor pregnancies of local women, and refer those who are in need of further check-ups to the Maternity Centre. These patients are transported in EMERGENCY’s ambulances which operate around the clock. This network guarantees prompt, high-quality medical assistance to pregnant women and their babies living in remote areas. 5,879 consultations were performed in the FAPs and PHCs, and 592 of these women were referred to EMERGENCY’s Maternity Centre in 2015.
Furthermore, to provide assistance to the many women who still prefer to give birth at home, a Childbirth Education Programme was initiated in late 2005 with the distribution of sanitary kits to improve hygiene and prevent infection.
However, EMERGENCY’s Maternity Centre in Anabah is more than just a hospital. It’s also a place for empowering local women. The 62 national staff employed and trained at the Maternity Centre are exclusively women: 27 nurses, 21 midwives, 2 junior gynaecologists and 12 non-medical staff. Our national staff are trained and supervised by international staff, who provide them with theoretical and practical training. In all EMERGENCY facilities the provision of on-the-job training is essential to allow staff to improve their skills. The Maternity Centre provides training in midwifery and nursing, and has been recognised as a national training centre for specialisation in gynaecology by the Afghan Ministry of Health.
The constant increase in the number of deliveries and admissions at the Maternity Centre shows that there’s a gap not covered yet by the public health system. That’s why EMERGENCY is expanding the Maternity Centre. The final goal is to be able to achieve 7,000 deliveries per year, with a monthly average of about 600.
The building is being constructed in a sustainable fashion, using locally sourced materials, employing Afghan tradesmen, and contributing to the region’s economy.
This expansion won’t only increase the Centre’s capacity to provide antenatal, gynaecological, obstetric and neonatal care to the population of Panjshir Valley and the surrounding provinces. It will also facilitate the activities of the professional training of Afghan residents coming from both the Panjshir Valley and any other Afghan region, by providing a new guesthouse for them to stay in.