MSH to Provide Critical Health Services to Afghan Women and Children

US Agency for International Development will provide $5 million to survey and quickly expand basic health services

BOSTON, MA (APRIL 9, 2002) — Catherine Crone Coburn, President of Management Sciences for Health (MSH), announced today that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide $5 million to Management Sciences for Health, through the Management and Leadership Program, to survey and quickly expand basic health services to the women and children of Afghanistan over the next six months. At the same time, Management Sciences for Health will assist the interim government to develop management capacity and to build the foundation for reconstruction of the health care system in Afghanistan.

Health resources in Afghanistan are currently concentrated in a few urban centers, while 40% of the Afghan population has no access to primary health care services. Many others have limited services of extremely poor quality, as exemplified by the extremely high rates of infant mortality throughout the country, where one in every four children dies before the age of five.

In order to reach these vulnerable populations quickly, Management Sciences for Health will work with established Afghan and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to strengthen and rapidly expand access to health services in rural areas. Through a performance-based grant program, Management Sciences for Health will bring additional financial and technical resources to train, supply and support community health workers in hard to reach areas.

Male and female trainees will be selected by and drawn from the local communities. NGOs will also provide health education, basic care for common disease killers such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infections, purchase needed pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and make basic repairs of health facilities.

"The health needs of the people of Afghanistan are great, yet many skilled health workers have either left the country or not received any formal training for many years," said Dr. Ron O'Connor, founder and CEO of Management Sciences for Health. "It is imperative that training and financial resources be provided to improve and expand services for the women and children who currently face among the worst health prospects in the world today," O'Connor noted, who will lead Management Sciences for Health's efforts.

Complementing the grant program, Management Sciences for Health will also work with the Ministry of Public Health, key NGOs, and other donors to survey health facilities, workers and other potential providers of health services, such as shops and pharmacies throughout the country. The survey will employ local Afghans to map the location of facilities, workers and services, a critical step for donors and the government in planning for additional services in underserved areas.

Management Sciences for Health will also work with the Ministry in building links with underserved areas, establish national policies to improve health services impact, along with developing in-country management capacity to create sustainable services.

"This is a crucial point in the future development of Afghanistan's health infrastructure," said O'Connor. "It is important to begin now to meet the basic health needs of the people of Afghanistan in a coordinated and equitable way, while at the same time beginning to create linkages between local health service providers and national government policies and priorities."