Seven-day old Zaynah was brought to the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul for her vaccinations when the doctor who was administering them informed her mother that she was going to have to be admitted for a few days. Zaynah was suffering from jaundice and was showing signs of developing a bacterial infection as well.
It is not uncommon for babies to develop jaundice in the days following birth but it must be addressed quickly or it can lead to severe medical issues. Untreated jaundice in babies can lead to fever, lack of appetite, lethargy and even seizures. In its worst forms it can cause brain damage leading to cerebral palsy, impaired vision and hearing, and underdeveloped motor skills.
Zaynah was being aggressively treated with phototherapy and Amikacin (antibiotic) injections, donated by one of our pharmaceutical partners, for the infection. Injectable antibiotics are critical to the care of newborns but are quite difficult to find in Afghanistan. In speaking with a doctor in the maternity ward he emphasized the importance of donated drugs to the care of Afghan newborns.
“I use HPIC donated medicines whenever possible, I trust Canadian medications very much and they have always been effective in treating the babies,” the physician told one of our visiting staff members.
Efforts to increase access to healthcare for women and children in Afghanistan are producing positive results, but more needs to be done. In the past ten years the rate of child mortality has been cut in half but the country still has the second highest child mortality rate in the world (USAID).