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From Fearful to Confident: One Tajik Doctor’s Journey

In a remote district in south-western Tajikistan, near the Afghanistan border, Dr. Merdan Mulkiev saw obstacles everywhere. The poor local infrastructure limited the quality of care the family doctor could provide patients. And the long distance to the medical school in Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, meant he couldn’t get continuous medical education to improve his knowledge and skills. Life, it turns out, was hard even for a medical doctor.

That changed when he found out he didn’t have to travel to seek more education. The education came to him--in the form of the Feed the Future Tajikistan Health and Nutrition activity. Dr. Merdan is one of the nearly 9,900 rural healthcare workers who have received training and guidance on nutrition and maternal and child health from the $13 million U.S. Agency for International Development-funded project, on which Abt Global is a partner.

Dr. Merdan became one of two trainers in the entire district. He learned and passed down best practices. In addition, the project provided his primary healthcare center technical equipment and training modules and set it up as a district training resource center. “Now, I educate and train rural medical workers from our area in our own health facility,” says Dr. Merdan.  

The Feed the Future activity, which involves Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health, other stakeholders, and Abt, works to strengthen integrated healthcare at the family, community, clinical, and national levels to improve maternal, newborn, and child health in Khatlon province. And it’s having an impact: 73% more women receive quality antenatal care and iron and folic acid during pregnancy, medical providers can identify low-weight children, and the providers offer high-quality counseling to pregnant women and women with children under five.

Dr. Merdan recently was promoted to deputy manager of the Dusti district primary healthcare system, an unusual achievement for a member of the Turkmen minority. “I believe it is because of the skills I’ve gained through the Feed the Future activity,” he says. The activity enabled him to give quality care to his patients and mentor his colleagues. “Together, we can take care of all the  mothers, wives, and children in our communities, keeping them healthy and happy,” he adds.

The activity runs from 2015 to 2020. Abt’s work in this area will continue as part of the USAID-funded Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies project.

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