SHARISTAN DISTRICT, Daykundi Province – A father sits on a wooden chair and caresses his child, who is lying on a bed with his hand in a bandage. In a corner, a doctor checks the case papers of an elderly man whose hand is hooked up to an IV. The cleaner is scrubbing the floor with antiseptic and the air smells medicinal.
“Yesterday, my child fell from a height of three meters and lost consciousness,’’ says Mohammad Ibrahim, 35, a resident of Lokhtuk village. “When I came to Ulqan hospital, doctors treated us very well and they did everything they could to save my child. Now he is getting better.” Outside the Ulqan district hospital, there is a long line in the registration area of women who have brought their infants for vaccinations and a health checkup.
Ulqan is a 30-bed district hospital located in the Shahristan district of Daykundi in central Afghanistan. It is one of 39 health centers in Daykundi that provides health services under the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition (SEHAT) Program, implemented by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).
Under SEHAT, Première Urgence-Aide Médicale Internationale (PU-AMI), a French nongovernmental organization (NGO) has been contracted to provide a Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) at these health centers. A major achievement following the implementation of SEHAT has been the fall in infant and maternal deaths in the province. PU-AMI has been working closely with the health centers to reduce child and maternal mortality.
According to PU-AMI, infant mortality has fallen from 27 per 1,000 live births in 2015 to 19 per 1,000 last year in Daykundi. Maternal mortality dropped in the same period from 387 per 100,000 live births to 286. The province appears to be doing well, given the national estimate for infant mortality is 70 per 1,000 and maternal mortality is 327 per 100,000.
The purchase of an infant warmer and incubator machines for Ulqan hospital under SEHAT has helped cut infant mortality rates to near zero in the district. “When there was no infant warmer or incubator machine in the hospital, we lost many newborns,” says Dr. Ahmad Masood Azimi, 32, PU-AMI supervisor in Shahristan district. “Now, we keep newborn babies with low body temperature in the machines and it has reduced infant mortality in Shahristan.”
Midwife Nazia, 43, affirms the achievement at the hospital: “Every month, 55 children are born in the Ulqan hospital. For the past two years, no mother or infant has died in our hospital.’’ The Ulqan district hospital was founded over 30 years ago as a small health center and now operates 24 hours a day. Its 35 staff members include a surgeon, doctors, nurses, midwives, laboratory technicians, vaccinators, and a pharmacist, covering a population of some 35,000.