Remarks as prepared for Karla Fossand, USAID/Afghanistan Health Team Leader

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Safe Motherhood Initiative Day event

Greetings, opening remarks and formalities

Today we are celebrating an important event – and reminding ourselves to stay focused on ensuring becoming a mother is an occasion of joy, not tragedy. 

Reducing maternal, neonatal and child mortality and morbidity remain among the highest priorities of the Ministry of Public Health and of the United States Agency for International Development both here in Afghanistan and globally.

Today we have come together to advocate for quality, equitable and respectful health services for every Afghan woman and newborn, and to renew our commitment to support the implementation of those services.

As you may all know, the introduction of the Basic Package of Health Services and Essential Package of Hospital Services has tremendously improved maternal and child health outcomes in recent years by increasing access to normal and emergency obstetric and newborn care.  This includes sending trained community midwives to health facilities.

But despite the major gains, Afghanistan still loses far too many mothers and newborns compared with its neighbors. It is estimated by the 2010 Afghanistan Mortality Survey that every two hours, one woman dies in Afghanistan with 41 percent of these deaths occurring during pregnancy, 40 percent of deaths occurring during delivery, and 19 percent in the during the post-partum period.

We can substantially reduce not only maternal but also newborn and infant mortality, through better care to all women during labor and delivery.  This includes important preventive practices such as the use of uterotonics, which are drugs that can help the delivery process and reduce the risk of bleeding to death; the promotion of breast feeding, as well as care for women with hemorrhage or excessive bleeding, complications from high blood pressure, including preelampsia and eclampsia, and infection—the three biggest killers of women during childbirth.

We also need to promote better nutrition for mothers and children, ensure women have access to quality antenatal and postnatal care, and to provide family planning to all women who desire to plan pregnancies to protect the health of both mother and baby. The AMS 2010 also revealed that about a third of pregnant women do not seek antenatal care services during pregnancy and only 16 percent of pregnant women receive four antenatal care visits. In addition, about 67 percent of births take place at home and only a third of mothers receive post-natal care services. Early marriage, maternal malnutrition, and repeated pregnancies also increase the risk of anemia, obstructed labor, damage to a woman’s organs, known as fistula, and maternal and new-born mortality.

Building upon the global momentum highlighted by the Every Woman Every Child Campaign and last month’s impressive Call to Action: Renewing the Promise for Maternal and Child Survival here in Kabul, USAID Afghanistan has launched the HEMAYAT project to support the Ministry of Public Health in building on the gains to date and accelerate efforts towards ending preventable maternal, newborn and child mortality.

I’d like to share some highlights of USAID’s HEMAYAT project:

  • Supporting delivery of the Basic Package of Health Services to increase access to, quality of, and use of primary health care services
  • Improving access to, quality of, and demand for high-impact interventions before, during and after childbirth
  • Addressing unmet need for family planning by increasing availability and awareness of long acting contraceptive methods, particularly for postpartum family planning
  • Supporting implementation of strategic community- and facility-level initiatives to reduce maternal deaths from postpartum haemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal death in Afghanistan
  • Supporting the improvement of newborn and child health interventions at community health facilities and care for malnutrition, diarrhoea, and pneumonia community levels
  • Increasing development and improving retention of Afghanistan’s family planning and maternal, neonatal and child health providers, through support to community midwifery and community nursing programs, and
  • Supporting community based health care networks to enable individuals and communities to improve healthy behaviours, expand use of appropriate services, and hold health systems accountable. 

USAID is proud to stand beside the Ministry of Public Health to implement these approaches to decrease maternal deaths and illnesses. 

It will take the efforts of all of us, every-day, in every household, every village and every clinic, together, to ensure not only safe motherhood, but that woman and children thrive.

Ministry of Public Health, Kabul, Afghanistan
Issuing Country