Stories: Saving Lives in the Mountains of Afghanistan

Every morning Dr. Hajira tours the maternity wards at the Faizabad hospital with other doctors and trainees, drawing on her 30 years of experience as an OB/GYN to identify and treat complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

In Afghanistan, 396 women will die in childbirth for every 100,000 babies born. In Canada, this number is 7.

“The reasons why mothers pass away during childbirth is the same everywhere in the world. It depends on the facilities available to them,” says Dr. Hajira, who was the first female doctor in the province of Badakhshan.

On their rounds, Dr. Hajira and her team visit patients, from pre-labour to postpartum and pregnancy complications, bed-by-bed. Some patients are referred to the hospital by midwives who were trained in the facility before going on to serve their communities.

“We are serving our people 24 hours a day, every day. The death of mothers has declined in the rural areas of this province. We are planning to send more doctors and midwives to the districts to prevent deaths caused by childbirth,” says Dr. Hajira.

Since 2005, the Aga Khan Development Network has trained over 400 midwives in Afghanistan, about 10 percent of the total. Midwives play a crucial role in reducing maternal mortality, which in Afghanistan has dropped from 1,600 out of 100,000 live births in 2003, to 400 per 100,000 live births in 2015.

By training health care professionals, upgrading hospitals and clinics, and working with local communities, we are helping to improve health care for over 1.2 million women and children in Afghanistan.