Afghanistan: 113,500 happy births, but no carefree maternity period

Piles of hats, kilos of diapers and hundreds of thousands of socks: Afghan health institutions have seen a lot of baby stuff in recent months. Because in 33 hospitals throughout the country no fewer than 113,500 children have been born since January. So, a year after the takeover of power, there is a lot of happy baby news in Afghanistan, but a carefree maternity period is unfortunately not possible for many mothers. Because how are you supposed to feed the child if you can barely afford a cup of soup?

“Earlier, more than a hundred people worked in this hospital. By the end of 2021, there were three of us.” Sharifa, a midwife at a maternity hospital in Kabul, remembers well the last months of the past year. “We did everything: we were receptionist, doctor, midwife, specialist and security guard at the same time.”

Sharifa gives a medical consultation to her pregnant patient.

Sharifa is not the only health worker who has experienced this in Afghanistan in the past year. Because after the takeover of power in August 2021, financial support for many things in Afghanistan was stopped. The same applies to the medical sector. Many medical projects came to a standstill and the salaries of doctors and nurses were not paid for months.

The medical sector on the ventilator

The Red Cross therefore launched a project to keep the medical sector afloat. Around 33 major hospitals across the country received support from the Red Cross. We made sure there was money for medicine, medical supplies, food, maintenance work and fuel for ambulances and generators. Salaries were also paid to 10,500 health workers.

In this way, Sharifa and her colleagues also got help again, and safe maternity care could once again be provided. Since January, around 113,500 babies have been born in hospitals supported by the Red Cross.

Babies receive medical care at the Afghanistan Red Cross
A mother with her baby at Rabia Balkhi Hospital in Kabul.

More than delivering babies

Dr. Malalai Rahim Faizi of Malalai Maternity Hospital notes only that maternity care is not the only thing her patients need. Poverty is a major problem among the people it treats. Sometimes she helps women who can’t even afford a cup of soup.

And it is not surprising: in the past year, Afghanistan has entered an increasingly deep economic malaise. The banking system is frozen, there is not enough cash, there is a lack of jobs, and people are suffering the consequences of decades of war. The economic sanctions and the war in Ukraine have made the situation even worse.

Food has become too expensive for many families. Between June 2021 and June 2022, wheat flour became about 68% more expensive and sunflower oil 55%. More than half of Afghans (55%) are now in need of humanitarian aid. It is estimated that as many as 20 million people in the country experience food insecurity.

Afghanistan medical aid for Red Cross children
A doctor attends to a baby at Malalai Hospital in Kabul.

No carefree maternity period

A carefree maternity period is unfortunately not an option for many mothers in Afghanistan. Many mothers and fathers have a lack of income, and long lines of begging stand in front of the bakeries in Kabul.

Dr. Malalai Rahim Faizi from the maternity hospital therefore hopes that the Afghans will receive support quickly: “We are in a crisis in Afghanistan. International aid is essential to deal with this critical situation. We therefore hope that the international community will not make the healthcare system part of a political game. Patients must be treated. Healthcare is a humanitarian duty.”

dr malalai children's hospital kabul afghanistan red cross
Dr. Malalai Rahim Faizi from the Malalai Maternity Hospital in Kabul.

What is the Red Cross doing in Afghanistan?

Afghan Red Moon aid workers are helping people across the country. In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is present in the country to support people. This is what the International Red Cross achieved between January and July 2022:

  • Assistance was provided for the birth of 113,500 babies in hospitals supported by the Red Cross.
  • 2,050,694 people received a medical consultation at these hospitals.
  • More than 99,400 patients were helped at our rehabilitation centres, for example because they had fallen victim to a land mine.
  • More than 73,530 people received cash assistance. This allows them to buy what they need most. For example, baby things.
  • 86,400 people received financial support to resume farming. This is because many people had to temporarily leave their homes because of the violence and now have to restart everything.
  • Almost 1.5 million people in the country gained better access to water.
  • 10,000 inmates received food and hygiene items every month.

Keep helping in Afghanistan

Drought, an earthquake and an economic crisis: Afghans face one disaster after another. We therefore remain present in the country to support people.

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