Afghanistan

A Mother's Greatest Gift: Safe Delivery

  • May 09, 2014

There’s no greater gift for a mother than a safe delivery of a healthy newborn baby. But not every mother is fortunate enough to give birth in a hospital delivery room. In impoverished countries like Afghanistan, 85 percent of women give birth with no access to professional medical assistance—often with dangerous results: One in six Afghan women dies in childbirth, and infant mortality rates are the third highest in the world. 

We’re working to change these alarming statistics by partnering with American Medical Overseas Relief (AMOR) to donate clean birth kits to Afshar Hospital in Kabul. The kits provide a safer birth environment and better health outcomes for new mothers and babies, and have helped spark a marked increase the number of women who are now coming to the hospital to deliver their babies.

The program has already made a difference for mothers like Milad, who walked for 40 minutes to the COPE clinic four times during her pregnancy for care and free prenatal vitamins donated by AmeriCares. When she was in labor, she called the home health worker who arrived with a birth kit and assisted in delivering a healthy baby boy. The following week, Milad and her newborn son returned to the clinic, where Milad received her postnatal checkup, and her son received his first round of vaccines and a brand-new baby outfit.

“The kits provide a clean birthing environment for mothers and newborns who would otherwise be left to go through the birthing process in an unsanitary environment that puts them at high risk for infection,” explained Davena Witcher, RN, Executive Director of  American Medical Overseas Relief.

Each birth kit includes items recommended by the World Health Organization for safe home births: hand sanitizer, bulb syringe for mucus extraction, two sets of medical gloves, an under pad, a cord clamp and a scalpel. Enclosed in a biodegradable jute pouch, these simple items can save lives by providing a sanitary birthing environment that reduces the risk of infection.

The kits are distributed through Afshar Hospital’s Community Outreach and Patient Education(COPE) program, directly to the hospital’s COPE clinics in impoverished and isolated communities around Kabul. COPE home health workers reach out to expectant moms to raise awareness about the importance of a clean birthing environment and encourage them to come to the clinic for prenatal check-ups and, if possible, to the hospital for delivery. During labor, if the woman, is not able to deliver in a medical setting -- the home health worker travels to the woman’s home with a clean birth kit to assist with delivery. Within a week of birth, mother and baby visit the clinic for a postnatal check-up.

Successful Outreach, Safer Deliveries

In the past year, Afshar has successfully promoted the program through a voucher system that provides discounts to these extremely poor women, achieving the goal of having more births attended by a medical professional in a hospital setting.

“We have made tremendous progress in our educational efforts this last year. A full 70 percent of women seen at the clinics are now delivering their babies at Afshar hospital,” said “The birthing kits were a great bridge between the deliveries taking place at home without a clean environment and having the women come to the hospital. We are deeply grateful to AmeriCares for providing this very effective tool.”

The program was launched in January 2013 in partnership with American Medical Overseas Relief -- a California based organization that established Afshar Hospital outside of Kabul, Afghanistan.