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Afghanistan: Regeneration

By Ben Cohen | 18 Jan 2017

Afghan mother standing in rubble embracing her young son

A grandmother from rural Afghanistan loses her daughter at the moment she is to become a grandmother. But she vows that she won’t lose her precious granddaughter to the same fate.

Anahita* was about to become a grandmother – a proud moment in every mother’s life. Her beloved daughter, Rana, was due to give birth. At first, the delivery and birth seemed to go smoothly and after a few hours Rana was presented with a healthy little girl.

However, it soon became clear that Rana herself wasn’t so healthy following the birth. She began to turn pale, and her stomach started to swell. There were no medical professionals in their village or for many miles. No one in the village knew what to do to help Rana. The family lived in a remote and often inaccessible village. The closest clinic was an eight to ten hour drive away, travelling through Afghanistan’s rugged landscape.


The celebrations evaporated as Anahita desperately tried to help Rana using the traditional methods that she had learnt from her own mother. ‘I slaughtered an animal,’ Anahita explained with tears in her eyes. ‘I prayed that it would be accepted instead of the new mother, but it was all in vain.’

Rana could only whisper her goodbyes to her loved ones as they helplessly watched the young mother – still only a child herself – pass away.

Anahita pledged to raise her beautiful granddaughter – who had been named Tela – as her own. She vowed that the little girl would not suffer the same fate when the time came for her to have children. However, Anahita didn’t know how this could change – access to health services was virtually non-existent, especially during winter, when harsh weather conditions severely limited access outside of her village. How would this be possible?

The vow realised

The answer came 16 years later when one of Tearfund's partners in Afghanistan – came to her town. They hosted course called ‘BLISS’ (Basic Life Saving Skills), which Anahita and Tela eagerly attended. Grandmother and granddaughter learnt how women can help one another during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. ‘If I had only known the methods they teach on these courses sooner!’ exclaims Anahita.

Anahit vowed that the little girl would not suffer the same fate when the time came for her to have children.

Our partners in Afghanistan are working throughout rural Afghanistan to offer this crucial training; a lifeline to women who can’t access health clinics. They also want to challenge deeply held cultural beliefs about women’s health, some of which are positively harmful. Around the country, mothers-to-be (and grandmothers) can look forward to a new life coming into the world without also fearing the worst.

Anahita is confident that her aspiration for Tela can now be realised; ‘My hope is that by completing the courses, my dream for the future might come true: that my future great-grandchildren can grow up with a healthy mother to look after them.’

*The women’s names have been changed.

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Written by Ben Cohen

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