Balkh Province, Norther Afghanistan. Winter announces itself with a soft snowfall. The sidewalks are empty but some people walk across the yard of a hospital. Inside the hospital, one can hear whispers of congratulations - it is a special day for Bibi Sediqa, she has just become a grandmother.
“Luckily for the first time my daughter’s child survived. She had always lost her child immediately after birth. I just thank God for having a good hospital and doctors,” the beaming grandmother says. Bibi Sediqa, 60yo, is one of many happy faces in the Khulm District Hospital (DH). She came with her daughter from Bay Mohammad village in Khulm district in Balkh Province. A bukhari (wood-fueled heater) warms the neonatal and obstetrics section, which houses new mothers and women in labor. Bibi Sediqa sits close to her daughter’s bed as the doctor checks her daughter’s documents and provides counsel on neonatal childcare. Khulm DH is a 50-bed hospital, located in Khulm district, 60 kilometers from Mazar-e-Sharif city in Balkh. Founded nearly half a century ago as a small health center, Khulm DH is one of 90 health facilities in the province. The hospital provides free health services through the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition (SEHAT) program for more than 75,000 people in the district. The hospital has been receiving support under the SEHAT program since January 2014. It has expanded capacity since 2002 and employs 41 healthcare professionals, including doctors, vaccinators, midwives, a dentist, a physiotherapist, laboratory technicians, and support staff. SEHAT, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), aims to expand the scope, quality, and coverage of health services provided to the population, particularly for the poor. It is supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), in partnership with multiple donors. SEHAT supports the provision of Basic Package of Health Service (BPHS) and Essential Package of Hospital Services (EPHS) to the entire country. The services are implemented through performance-based partnership agreements between MoPH and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which deliver health services as defined in these packages. The health services at Khulm DH and the other 89 health facilities in Balkh Province are implemented by an NGO named Bakhtar Development Network (BDN) contracted by MoPH.