Illustrating MSF’s busiest maternity ward

In one hospital in Khost in eastern Afghanistan, not far from the Pakistani border, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) midwives and doctors have helped bring more than 100,000 babies into the world.

With more than 60 newborns each day, Khost is not only MSF’s busiest maternity hospital, but also one of the busiest maternity wards anywhere.

Inside, taking photographs and videos is extremely restricted for cultural and security reasons, but we wanted to find a way to share stories from this special project about women caring for women. Almost all of the midwives assisting deliveries here are Afghan women.

We decided to send Aurélie Neyret, an incredibly talented illustrator, to spend nine days with the team in Khost — observing, sketching, and gathering stories of patients, family members, and MSF staff.

Aurélie sketches a newborn in Khost maternity hospital in December 2017.

Check out the incredible comic Aurélie created:

Aurélie is part of an association called The Ink Link, a non-profit network of illustrators, script writers, and colorists who partner with organizations to use illustration and comics for social causes.

MSF opened a specialized maternity hospital in Khost in 2012 to provide safe, high-quality, and free maternal and neonatal care to women and their babies in the eastern part of the country. Since 2016, the team has also been supporting five health centers in the province to increase their capacity to provide maternal health care.

Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. In rural areas and away from the big cities, most women do not have adequate access to essential obstetric care. In provinces like Khost, accessing proper care is even harder due to the limited availability of female midwives and doctors.

MSF’s specialized maternity hospital tries to overcome some of these challenges by offering a safe environment for women to deliver their babies, with care provided mainly by female medical staff.