Today every 1 in 5 of the world’s population is living in a humanitarian crisis with a compromised healthcare system that fails to deliver basic health services. In Afghanistan, the situation only gets worse.
According to Human Rights Watch, “Distance remains a problem for a significant proportion of the population; almost 10% of people cannot reach a health facility within 2 hours and 43% must travel for more than half an hour.” Access to essential health services has become even more challenging due to restrictions on women’s and girls’ mobility in the country. Owing to the lack of infrastructure and fewer trained health professionals added to tough terrains, ensuring good sexual and reproductive health becomes impossible at times.
Self-care interventions can help individuals attain self-efficiency and autonomy when it comes to sexual and reproductive healthcare. It also increases access to all sections of society, enabling basic sexual and reproductive wellness.
What is Self-care?
WHO describes self-care as “The ability of individuals, families and communities to promote their health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness or disability with or without the support of a health worker.” This includes the use of evidence-based, quality drugs, devices or digital products which can be provided fully or partially outside the formal health services.
While self-care interventions can play an important role in making healthcare systems more efficient, can they maintain the same efficiency even in situations of humanitarian crises? The short answer to this is ‘Yes’.
To maintain sexual and reproductive health, self-care interventions can provide important solutions like human papillomavirus (HPV) testing kits, contraceptives, and medicines for sexually transmitted infections (STI) medicines. This even includes safe delivery kits like in the case of Maryam. Apart from this, self-care can also be assisted with the help of a trained health worker.
In the case of Afghanistan, this is done through the help of community outreach midwives. What makes self-care efficient, is its ability to reach marginalised communities, young adolescents, and queer people alike. Thus, allowing them a way to attain their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Attaining assisted self-care in Afghanistan
In a nation where the health system can only provide 4.6 medical doctors, nurses, and midwives per 10,000 people, which is far below the threshold for a critical shortage—23 healthcare professionals per 10,000 people as defined by WHO—calling Maryam lucky is an understatement.