Success story

Extraordinary ‘baby factory’ in war-torn region compares to busiest maternity wards in the U.S.

At a maternity hospital in Afghanistan, nicknamed “the baby factory,” more than 60 babies are born each day. The Doctors Without Borders facility in the southeastern city of Khost is one of the most active in the world, and mornings are the busiest time because the surrounding roads are not safe at night, due to Taliban activity.

Many women arrive at the hospital in their final minutes of labor, because they have waited till daybreak to begin their sometimes hours-long drive to hospital. Although new mothers are kept in the ward for six hours, sometimes that time is halved to ensure they reach home again before nightfall.

The hospital aims to make a dent on the high maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan — estimated by the Afghan government in partnership with USAID to be as high as 1,291 per 100,000.

The Khost Maternity Hospital (KMH) opened at the end of 2012, and made almost 12,000 deliveries in its first full year in 2013. By 2017, that number had doubled to 23,000 and this year KMH is on track to deliver 24,000 babies, says Palestinian gynecologist and medical officer Dr. Rasha Khoury — comparable to the busiest maternity wards in the U.S.

As well as addressing a major health crisis in the poor and conflict-riven region, the hospital has had to navigate a patriarchal code (known here as Pashtunwali) that insists upon segregation of genders, and prohibits a woman from ever showing her face to a stranger. All the medical staff, with the exception of some anesthetists and a neonatology department director, are women. Even with these concessions, many women still consider birth a highly private event and prefer to remain at home. Nevertheless, Dr. Khoury considers the hospitals work “a success story.”

With around 400 staff, the hospital estimates it is now responsible for around 4 in every 10 births in Khost province.

“We are really reaching people at the margin of the society in Afghanistan,” she says.

Watch the wonderful work of ‘the baby factory’ in the video below:

Read the full story at The Express Tribune.

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