Operation Mercy's Birth Life Saving Skills (BLiSS) course has been training thousands of Afghans in practical birth lifesaving skills over the past eight years in three regions across Afghanistan. With many Afghan women delivering babies in their own homes this information is extremely valuable leading to safer and more hygienic birthing practices.
BLiSS is a health education program about pregnancy, birth and new born care which began in 2005. The programme was created to help address the child and mother mortality rate in Afghanistan which remains one of the highest in the world. BLiSS trainers facilitate learner centred, participatory lessons that guide non-literate participants in the community through the process of recognising maternal-child health dangers and coming to a consensual decision about appropriate solutions and actions. Participants are encouraged to share their knowledge gained with other members of their communities. The 17 lessons of the BLiSS course encourage women to speak about their birthing traditions and ideas and look carefully at their underpinning cultural beliefs. It focuses on the importance of accessing medical help in a timely manner, and through participatory learning and role play addresses many cultural beliefs, some harmful and others beneficial.
Operation Mercy's BLiSS training is for both men and women, where training is held in single sex classes.
Mary, one of the BLiSS students told us this story of how she helped a woman who was pregnant and had swelling and pain. She said:
I had gone to Parwan province to attend a wedding party. When I arrived there, I found out that my sister-in-law's daughter-in-law was in labour. She was swollen and had a bad headache. Although it was her tenth pregnancy, she had only five children. She had lost four children. I asked her husband to bring a car and take her to the hospital. But the other women said it was the tenth time that she had been pregnant, and she had always delivered at home. There was no need to go to a doctor. But the pregnant woman was so sick and could not tolerate the pain. I said that I learned in the BLiSS lessons that swelling and a headache were very dangerous and that we must take her to the doctor.
We took her to the clinic located in the village and they said that we needed to take her to a hospital in Kabul. When we took her to the hospital in Kabul, doctors said that she needed surgery and they asked for permission from her husband and did the surgery. Fortunately, both mother and baby are healthy now and everyone in her family thanked me.
Read more about BLiSS in Afghanistan from the Tearfund UK publication, Footsteps.