Kabul, 28 October 2023 (TDI): The midwifery program addresses the high maternal and infant mortality rates in Afghanistan, particularly in remote rural areas where access to healthcare and trained medical professionals is limited and life-threatening.
In a remote village called Qala-e-Jaroo in Bamyan province, Rahela, a 24-year-old mother of two, tragically lost her third child due to a miscarriage.
Despite the urgency, she had to travel two hours to the nearest health clinic because there was no local midwife available.
Her journey involved descending steep mountain paths to reach the road, and when the expected transportation didn’t arrive, they had to continue on foot. The strenuous journey led to the loss of her baby.
Unfortunately, such stories are not uncommon in the challenging terrain of Bamyan and Daikundi, especially during harsh winter months when snow and avalanches can isolate villages from essential services for extended periods.
Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest maternal and child mortality rates, with an estimated 24 Afghan women losing their lives daily during childbirth or pregnancy in 2020, as per the World Health Organization.
Also read: Days of Darkness for Afghan women
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) supports a two-year diploma program for young midwife trainees who are well-acquainted with cases like Rahela’s.
These trainees come from underprivileged families and isolated areas, and their motivation is a strong desire to change the world and stop similar tragedies.
This program is one of the few opportunities for Afghan women to pursue education, as it falls within the healthcare sector, which was exempt from the restrictions placed by the Afghan de facto authorities in 2021, limiting women’s access to education and work opportunities.
UNHCR intends to continue this program in Bamyan and Daikundi and expand it to other provinces in the coming year.
While progress is being made, there is still a long journey ahead to reduce Afghanistan’s alarmingly high maternal and infant mortality rates.
A moving piece of hand-stitched art in the provincial hospital of Bamyan shows two men carrying a woman on wooden stretchers, illustrating the tragic reality of women losing their lives while attempting to travel to far-off hospitals for childbirth.
Back in Qazan village, Rahela, who experienced the loss of her third child, converses with Shakira, one of the midwife trainees from the same village.
She expresses her hope that having more midwives like Shakira in the community will lead to better outcomes for women.
Visits to her village have inspired Shakira, who is determined to become a skilled midwife in order to prevent maternal and infant deaths.