29 Jun 2016

Strengthening Afghanistan’s Health Sector: Evidence from the 2015 Afghanistan DHS

Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz (left), Sayed Alam Shinwari, Micheal Kugelman, and Larry Sample at The Wilson Center's Event, "A Good Diagnosis for Afghanistan: Strengthening the Health Sector"

Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz (left), Sayed Alam Shinwari, Michael Kugelman, and Larry Sampler at The Wilson Center’s Event, “A Good Diagnosis for Afghanistan: Strengthening the Health Sector”

Working in collaboration, two Afghan government organizations– the Central Statistics Organization and the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) – conducted Afghanistan’s first Demographic and Health Survey (AfDHS). “This in itself is an enormous milestone,” said Larry Sampler, Assistant to the Administrator for the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs at USAID during a panel discussion at the Wilson Center, “A Good Diagnosis for Afghanistan: Strengthening the Health Sector.” Sampler, joined by the Afghanistan Minister of Public Health, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz; Sayed Alam Shinwari, President of the Afghan Medical Professionals Association of America; and Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at The Wilson Center highlighted the implications of the Afghan government’s efforts to improve maternal and child health as demonstrated in the newly released 2015 AfDHS Key Indicators Report (KIR).

AfDHS-KIROf particular interest to both the MOPH and USAID, AfDHS results show progress in reducing childhood mortalityCurrently, about 1 in 20 children does not survive until their 5th birthday in Afghanistan. The majority of these childhood deaths occur during the first year of life. Compared to earlier time periods, both infant and under-five mortality have declined, suggesting that child health interventions are making a difference. Dr. Feroz explains, “The DHS survey shows that there is substantial improvement in maternal health and child health. This progress has been made through high-level commitments, a productive work environment with development partners as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local NGOs, scaling up of cost effective and lifesaving interventions across the country, training of midwives, as well as attention to equity and those living in remote areas.”

“The DHS survey demonstrates how far the Afghan public health sector has come and also how far it has to go,” stated Larry Sampler. What are the challenges of Afghanistan’s health sector? “Afghanistan still faces instability and insecurity, poverty, unemployment, the few number of midwives or health staff across the country,” explains Dr. Feroz. But in spite of these challenges, the Afghan MOPH is developing a national strategy for the next five years. “We will use this recent survey as a baseline to measure progress – to increase access to remote areas, improve the quality of services, introduce cost-effective interventions, and focus on equity issues.”

Dr. Fred Arnold of The DHS Program with Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, Afghanistan Minister of Public Health

Dr. Fred Arnold (left)  of The DHS Program with Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, Afghanistan Minister of Public Health

The survey covered topics including fertility and family planning, maternal and child health, childhood and maternal mortality, nutrition, malaria, HIV knowledge, and other health issues. The KIR is a short report of key indicators from the 2015 AfDHS that is meant to provide important data in a timely fashion to program managers and policy makers. Additional indicators such as the maternal mortality ratio will be included in the AfDHS Final Report, scheduled for release in late 2016.

To learn more about the Woodrow Wilson Center’s event, watch “A Good Diagnosis for Afghanistan: Strengthening the Health Sector” or visit the Wilson Center’s website.

The 2015 Afghanistan Demographic and Health Survey (2015 AfDHS) was implemented by the Central Statistics Organization and the Ministry of Public Health from June 15, 2015, to February 23, 2016. The funding for the AfDHS was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). ICF International provided technical assistance through The DHS Program, a USAID-funded project providing support and technical assistance in the implementation of population and health surveys in countries worldwide.

Written by Sally Zweimueller

Sally ZweimuellerSally is a Communications Technical Specialist at The DHS Program. She has worked at The DHS Program since 2012, providing technical assistance for health survey dissemination. She has a Masters of Public Health from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University with a specialty in Global Health. Through The DHS Program, Sally has worked in Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Sally supervises digital media activities, co-developed a social media eLearning course, and co-authored, “Women’s Lives and Challenges: Equality and Empowerment since 2000.” She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer of Malawi where she worked with FHI360.

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