Since 2006, Shahla Oruzgani has been working at Kabul’s Malalai Maternity Hospital, one of the busiest maternity hospitals in Kabul, Afghanistan. As head midwife, Oruzgani has dedicated her life to helping women and children. When the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last year, her mission only became more clear. “I report to work with a feeling of responsibility,” she says. “I’m committed and the reason behind this is that the mothers and newborns need my support.” Below, in her own words, Oruzgani on working through the crisis—and the supplies her hospital desperately needs to continue saving lives.
I work at a maternity hospital in Kabul, the capital and largest city in Afghanistan. We provide three types of key services, including antenatal care, delivery services, and postnatal care. We try our best to ensure that the mothers and babies in our care are observed carefully and that they both receive sufficient support.
Then, last year, our lives changed.
The crisis situation that unfolded here in Kabul did not—and will not—stop my mission to help women. I report to work with a feeling of responsibility. I am committed, and the reason behind this is that mothers and newborns need my support. My hope for the girls and women in Afghanistan is more education and a life free of violence.
Although our government has changed, there has been no change in the duties and functions of my hospital. We continue to deliver maternal and reproductive health services, and our staff and personnel report to work as usual. We will not stop, no matter what.
Women are the most impacted population by war in Afghanistan. I’m requesting the support and leadership of our current government to provide more and better support to the women here. We need standard health facilities in remote and hard-to-reach areas. The majority of women there face losing their babies or even death as a result of not being able to reach health facilities. They need lifesaving support to prevent maternal mortality.
Because women are so vulnerable in Afghanistan, we need more humanitarian support—especially when it comes to health systems. The broader international community should not link humanitarian support to the politics here.
As a midwife, I reflect the voices of those Afghan women who need health support and services. I hope that what I’m saying can be amplified globally, because these vulnerable Afghan women need to be paid attention to in such critical times.
Organizations like United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have been supporting my hospital by providing medical equipment, supplies, and medicine for reproductive health. This helps to ensure safe deliveries and manage pregnancy and childbirth complications. UNFPA also supports services for obstetric fistula, which we treat and is one of the most serious childbirth injuries.
However, we are suffering from shortages in logistical supplies and medicine. The salaries of the staff are not enough. We are also low on food for in-bed patients and on-duty personnel. Despite that, we all do our best to ensure that operations run smoothly. We need this support to be sustained, so that we can keep the hospital functioning and provide health care for more people, especially women.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.