Anabah Maternity Centre
Around 600 babies are born each month at our Maternity Centre.
In June 2003, EMERGENCY opened a Maternity Centre in Anabah, Afghanistan, to provide antenatal, gynaecologic, obstetric, and neonatal care to the population of the Panjshir Valley and the surrounding provinces. In 2015, the Maternity Centre underwent an expansion, improving its facilities and increasing the number of beds; the expanded Maternity Centre opened in 2016. Despite initial concerns from local authorities that the maternity centre might stay empty, the excellent level of healthcare provided by our dedicated national and international team has won the trust of people across the country, and convinced many of the importance of specialised maternal healthcare in a country with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. The maternal mortality rate amounts to around 400 for 100,000 live births. Since opening, the Anabah Maternity Centre has provided care for more than 200,000 women and delivered over 37,000 babies, with these numbers increasing daily.
The New Facility
By 2015, the facility was delivering over 500 births a month and had become too small to house the increasing demand for maternal healthcare from both local women and the 77% of patients who visit us from outside the province. In September 2015, we made the decision to enlarge the Maternity Centre by building a new block with 4 delivery rooms, operating theatres, a neonatal intensive care ward and step-down unit, an intensive care ward for women suffering birth complications, a clinic, a gynaecology ward, a follow-up area and labour area. The centre also runs an antenatal program aimed at monitoring pregnancies in order to promptly identify complications. For an overall cost of 1.5 millions euros, different professionals and technicians from both Afghanistan and Europe, constructed a state of the art facility capable of providing care for more than 600 women per month and 7000 deliveries a year and providing more extensive gynaecological and neonatal services. The expanded Maternity Centre opened on 8 December 2016.
On the day of the Inauguration, Ferozuddin Feroz, Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Health said: “The maternal mortality ratio in Afghanistan is extremely high, at a rate of about 325 per 100,000 live births. Establishing this kind of specialised maternity hospital that cares for mother and child is really contributing to the reduction of maternal mortality in Afghanistan.”
Dominic Parker, from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), added: “One of the biggest concerns we have as a humanitarian community is the high maternal mortality rate, with women dying during childbirth or shortly after. The figures are getting worse and this is why this state-of-the-art centre with its modern equipment and specialised neonatal facilities is crucial to saving the lives of women and children.”
“Panjshir was the first place in Afghanistan where an EMERGENCY facility opened, with the construction of its surgical centre taking place in 1999.” says Rossella Miccio, EMERGENCY Humanitarian Office Coordinator. “Seventeen years later we have treated over 3 million patients and today we are inaugurating a new building for the women of Panjshir Valley and the surrounding areas.”
A beautiful natural birth marked the opening of the Maternity Centre’s new building:
“Opening the hospital with a birth like this one bodes quite well!” says Eleonora Bruni, Medical Coordinator at the Centre. “All of us from the international and national staff are happy because this new structure is truly beautiful. At the same time, we will always be quite attached to the old building that, in 2003, hosted the very first Maternity Centre in the history of Panjshir. Today, the transfer of all assets and activities from the old centre to the new one has been completed. The new centre has enabled EMERGENCY to double the capacity of beds and – thanks to the new delivery rooms, operating theatres and ICU – improve care for women and infants in the valley. Thanks to everyone who helped make this new project possible.”
Always Open, Always Free
Although Afghanistan’s extremely high infant and maternal mortality rates have begun to improve, the Anabah maternity centre remains the only specialised and completely free facility in area with a population of at least 250,000. It is open 24/7 and has also established a network of First Aid Posts (FAPs) and Primary Health Clinics (PHCs) spread over the Panjshir Valley and the surrounding areas, to ensure as many women as possible have access to its services. These First Aid Posts and Primary Health centres also ensure that patients and their newborn babies, who travel from outside Panjshir, can receive check-ups and follow-up examinations closer to home. Patients who visit them may also be transferred to the main maternity centre by EMERGENCY’s ambulances, which operate around the clock. In 2015, 5,879 consultations were performed in the FAPs and PHCs, and 592 of these women were referred to EMERGENCY’s Maternity Centre.
The Anabah project is about more than just a medical facility, however, and was founded with the aim of offering support to both local women and those from across the region – in a society where equality between the sexes is not paramount. Providing access to quality maternity care is one way in which the centre tries to achieve this, but EMERGENCY is also aware that there are many women who, due to cultural or personal preferences, still wish to give birth at home. Because of this, in late 2005, a Childbirth Education Programme was initiated with the distribution of sanitary kits to improve hygiene and prevent infection.
More than just a hospital: Training and employing women
The Maternity Centre in Anabah also works to support women through education – local women are provided with the opportunity to receive theoretical and practical medical training. In 2015, the facility had 62 national staff who had been trained at the Centre. Exclusively women, this group consisted of 27 nurses, 21 midwives, 2 junior gynaecologists and 12 non-medical staff. The Maternity Centre is recognised by the Afghan Ministry of Health as a national training centre for specialisation in paediatrics and gynaecology.
“There have been many wars in Afghanistan and women have suffered a lot. Now, they want to learn new things, they want to be educated and become professionals. I think that the merits of EMERGENCY’s Maternity Centre go beyond the surgical and medical treatment provided to an area inhabited by more than 1 million people. For women in our region, the Maternity Centre has become a symbol and place of emancipation. Here they now have the chance to work, to receive a high standard of training, and to have a role and a status within their communities that goes beyond being a wife or a mother.”
– Marja, Coordinator of the national midwifery team in Anabah, Afghanistan
Stories from the field
Location: Anabah, Panjshir Valley
Start of clinical activities: June 2003
Activities: Obstetrics and gynaecology, Neonatal Care
Facilities: A&E, Outpatient clinics, Operating theatre, Intensive care, Wards, Nursery, Ultrasound room, Birthing suite, Diagnostics, Technical and auxiliary services shared with the Medical-Surgical Centre.
Local staff: 104
Number of beds: 87
Children born in the Centre: 46,027
(Data correct as of 31 December, 2017)