Saving Lives

Addressing Child and Mother Mortality
June 20, 2018

Saving Lives

“Several hours after giving birth at home to a healthy baby, my daughter-in-law began bleeding heavily. Remembering what I had learned in the Birth Life Saving Skills (BLiSS) lessons, I asked the traditional birth attendant to check the placenta. “What?” she replied, “I have never done this before. Why should we do this?” I told her that in the BLiSS lessons we learned that if a piece of the placenta remains in the woman’s body she would bleed a lot. We checked and found out that a piece had remained. I quickly asked [my son] for money and a car to take [my daughter-in-law] to the hospital. The doctor told us that we did a good job bringing her to the hospital since a piece of placenta was still in the uterus. At the hospital, doctors helped her and she got better and then we took her back home. We all are thankful for these lessons and are so happy that we have my daughter-in-law and my grandchild with us.” – Birth Life Saving Skills participant

Since 2005, Operation Mercy, in cooperation with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, has enabled thousands of Afghans to obtain invaluable practical birth life saving skills through a series of learner-centred, participatory lessons. Specifically directed at improving the situation for women during their child-bearing years, two thirds of those trained are women, resulting in increased pregnancy and birth-related knowledge amongst this largely illiterate group. In addition to equipping women to advocate for their own needs as well as the needs of their female family members, BLiSS also trains men, the primary decision makers in the home. With greater understanding of the needs of pregnant women and newborns, male heads of households are more likely to make informed decisions that support the health of their family members.

In 2005, it was estimated that the infant mortality rate in Afghanistan was 165 per 1000 live births (UNICEF); in 2014, the estimate was 115 per 1000 live births (CIA fact book). Through BLiSS, we continue to contribute to the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (post-millennium development goals) that by 2030, child mortality rates in Afghanistan are reduced to less than 20 per 1000 births and maternal mortality rates in Afghanistan are reduced from 425 per 100,000 to less than 40 per 100,000 live births.

Currently, the BLiSS program is available in 7 of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. We would love to equip more Afghans with these invaluable skills. Due to the political difficulties and the increased security concerns in certain regions, Operation Mercy and BLiSS partner organizations were unable to expand into unreached provinces in 2015. In addition, funding challenges were particularly acute in 2015, with much European funding redirected towards the increasing numbers of refugees arriving in Europe.

In response to these challenges, BLiSS facilitators are working more strategically in selecting areas of health education needs, and in choosing effective criteria for selecting community members. Through this approach, BLiSS will be able to annually reach 2360 households from poor and illiterate communities in need of health education, positively impacting these households with healthy pregnancy and birth skills training. Will you help us?

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