| Midwives and Medicare in Afghanistan

Providing sustainable healthcare to developing countries

Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) is a Montreal-based non-profit that works to develop accessible healthcare facilities and resources in developing countries. They provide a number of different services, including creating programs for sustainable healthcare systems and sending pharmaceuticals to countries in need.

Currently, HPIC’s largest project is in Afghanistan, where it is working closely with the Ministry of Public Health to bring healthcare up to international World Health Organization standards, with the improvement of healthcare services for mothers and children as its main focus. Surprisingly, more civilians have died due to a lack of medical assistance during childbirth than because of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan that started in 2001. Over 100,000 women have died giving birth over the last six years, making it the leading killer of Afghan women.

The most heartbreaking part of this story is the fact that these deaths are largely due to issues that could be avoided with proper access to healthcare. Nine out of ten women deliver without any assistance in rural areas of Afghanistan. This makes it critical to train more Afghans as maternity workers. One of HPIC’s biggest efforts in Afghanistan involves a partnership with Malalai Maternity Hospital (the largest maternity hospital in the country), facilitating training programs for Afghans to teach other Afghans the skills needed to successfully deliver a child. Vanessa Herrick, the Communications Manager at HPIC, recently traveled to Afghanistan to help with the project efforts. In an interview with The Daily, she said, “… we don’t come in with our Western ideas as to how these things might be taught. Rather, we empower the Afghans to train other Afghans.” This, she believes, is the main difference between this program and others.

Along with creating sustainable maternity training programs, HPIC is also currently working on providing pharmaceuticals and teaching citizens about pharmaceutical management. Medications are donated by a number of Canadian pharmaceutical companies and are directly distributed to a number of public hospitals in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. For some of these hospitals, such as Malalai, these are the only donations received. Ailments such as non-fatal burns often become deadly for Afghans due to lack of access to the antibiotics needed to treat these injuries. Like death during childbirth, these fatalities are largely avoidable, and can be addressed with better access to medication and training.

The public often hears reports of civilian causalities in Afghanistan due to the conflict, but this serious killer of Afghans – lack of healthcare – goes largely ignored. The real tragedy is that those problems that go unnoticed are ones that can be addressed. Groups like HPIC are working toward providing both help and hope through their healthcare efforts.

Western audiences need to see past the preconceptions that popular media have developed of countries like Afghanistan, and look to the ‘smaller’ problems that have become big problems due to lack of awareness. It is important to support and contribute to efforts such as those by HPIC to help ease the issues that face the citizens in conflict-stricken countries.