In MOTHERLAND AFGHANISTAN, writer/director Sedika Mojadidi follows her father, Dr. Qudrat Mojadidi, into the chaotic reality of Afghanistan’s crippled health care system, where the maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world.
Dr. Mojadidi has practiced medicine within and outside of Afghanistan for the past 40 years. Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, he relocated to the United States to finish his medical training in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to treating Afghan refugee women in Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1982, he founded and managed the only free teaching hospital for Afghan women refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan for ten years during the Soviet-Afghan war. In 2002 he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his 20 years of work in Afghanistan. His commitment to women’s health in displaced communities has also led him to teach and work at Native American reservation hospitals in Arizona and Montana.
The film focuses on Dr. Mojadidi’s emergency treatment of three Afghan women: Kakujan, who had received inadequate care from a midwife during a home birth; Sitara, who had traveled far to receive treatment after prolonged obstructed labor in her remote village; and Sharifa, who Dr. Mojadidi discovered was pregnant with a second twin after the first baby had died.
Since filming ended, Dr. Mojadidi has continued his commitment to training Afghan doctors, improving hospital conditions and saving women’s lives. Fresh from training in Mazar-e Sharif in December 2006, he answered the following questions for Independent Lens from Kabul.
Last we heard you and your wife, Dr. Nafisa Mojadidi, had returned to Afghanistan in 2005 with the CURE International Hospital in Kabul. Is that where your work is currently focused, and what has that experience been like?
Yes, I am currently directing the OB/GYN fellowship training program for CURE International. We are just getting ready to finish training the first five fellows next month, and we will start with the next group of five in February 2007. This last year and a half was the most productive work I have ever had the opportunity to conduct. My work here will probably be finished by March, and two of the trained fellows will be able to carry on with the CURE fellowship program. Although I am very tired, I was willing to stay another year to implement the same program at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) maternity hospital, but it seems nobody is interested, so we will be coming home in March.
Nafisa is doing well. She takes care of the CURE outpatient clinic, and though she isn’t always happy living in Kabul with the freezing cold and electricity for only four hours every 48 hours, she has always been a huge force behind our work.
How did you feel about being filmed?
I am glad Sedika made the film, though I could never tolerate the stress of another one. The staff at the Rabia Balkhi and Shuhada hospitals are very pleased with the film and happy to see that the truth is getting out.
Do you think health conditions are improving for Afghan women?
No. My opinion about U.S. work in the health sector in Afghanistan has not changed. There is still a lot of waste.
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