Three Simple Pills

Passion, Perseverance & A Pill Eliminate Postpartum Peril

“No woman should die from childbirth.”

of pregnancy-related deaths in Afghanistan are due to postpartum hemorrhage—excessive bleeding after a child is born.

“It sounds so simple, three tablets, just after birth,” says one pregnant woman in Shakila’s village. “Another woman in the community died after childbirth from bleeding. I wish we knew about this at the time.”

For four years, Shakila Jami has run a health post out of her home—delivering her 2-year-old son into the care of her mother-in-law while she works. “Everyone is welcome here,” she says. “Enjil is a poor district … where else can they go? The nearest health center is a two hour walk.”

Shakila makes a concerted effort to ensure that the health post is clean, organized and open on time. “I have been working in this health post for four years now. We serve around 10 to 15 people every week,” says Shakila.

And that’s not all—Shakila spends a significant portion of her time conducting home visits—ensuring women in the community are getting the care they deserve. She provides counseling, antenatal care and essential medicines like misoprostol, thee simple pills that help prevent excessive bleeding after birth.

Shakila gives misoprostol to all of her pregnant clients during her home visits. The nearest health facility is far, and often unreachable during labor. The medicine saves lives.

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One woman greets another at the doorway to her health post.

A Thankful Community

“It’s a sign for me,” Shakila says, “that I know that I am doing my job properly, and living a worthwhile life.”

59% of women in rural areas of Afghanistan give birth at home. Women in Shakila’s village are getting the care they need to survive childbirth and take the steps they need to have healthy, thriving families.

Shakila reports that since women began to self-administer misoprostol, postpartum hemorrhage complications have dropped in her village, and the community has greater trust in her. Her antenatal visits, and message to women and their families about the potential dangers of giving birth at home have resulted in an increase in births at the nearest health center.

When Shakila walks the streets of her village, neighbors often stop her to ask for advice. “It’s a sign for me,” she says, “that I know that I am doing my job properly, and living a worthwhile life.”

“I couldn’t complete my education. I was married off when I was 18, and had my first child at 19. But with knowledge and skills, everyone can be a valued member of society,” Shakila says.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development’s Helping Mothers and Children Thrive project, known as HEMAYAT, and in collaboration with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, Jhpiego trained Shakila in a range of high-impact interventions. She learned how to advise women about breastfeeding and family planning, as well as to instruct them in newborn umbilical cord care. She was empowered to distribute key medicines, like chlorhexidine and misoprostol, to save lives, even during home births.

Two hands holding a small card about misoprostol.