Young Afghan women train as midwives as country’s maternal mortality rate is amongst the highest in world

In a small village surrounded by velvety white snow-capped mountains. Bamiyan province of AfghanistanAziza Rahimi is mourning the baby she lost last year after a painful birth without any medical care.

Rahimi, 35, said, “It was very difficult for me when I lost my baby. As a mother, I carried the baby in my womb for nine months but then I lost it, it was so painful. It’s bad.”

The rugged and remote beauty of the village in Bamiyan’s Steel Valley comes with life-threatening obstacles for expectant mothers. A narrow village road with few vehicles is sometimes cut off by snow, cutting off a lifeline to hospitals, clinics and trained health workers.

However, a potentially life-saving improvement is on the way. Rahimi’s village is one of the few villages around Bamyan that has sent 40 young women to the provincial capital to train as midwives for two years, after which they will return home.

Isolation can be a death sentence in any difficult birth, doctors and aid workers say, adding to Afghanistan’s high maternal and child mortality rates, among the worst in the world.

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The United Nations estimates that one Afghan woman dies every two hours during pregnancy and childbirth, making Afghanistan the highest maternal mortality rate in Asia.

The Trainee Midwife Program is chaired. United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) with Watan Social and Technical Services Association, a local charity. They hope to expand the program, which also takes place in the neighboring province of Daikundi.

Since taking power in 2021, Taliban authorities have barred women from universities and most charity work, but have made concessions in the health care sector, and UNHCR says local health officials have rejected the plan. are supporting

Aziza Rahimi, 35, poses inside her home on March 2, 2023, in the Fuladi Valley of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Rahimi gave birth, but her baby died shortly after. (Reuters/Ali Khara)


“When the roads are closed, of course there is no means of transportation, people even use donkeys to carry patients to clinic centers,” said Mohammad Ashraf Niazi, head of UNHCR’s Bamiyan office. But sometimes there is no opportunity to do that,” said Mohammad Ashraf Niazi, head of UNHCR’s Bamiyan office. .

Rahimi, who has five other children, said riding a donkey was out of the question when she was writhing in pain at night four months ago when she was nine months pregnant. Bleeding while stumbling, she gave birth there after going to her in-laws’ house for two hours when no car or ambulance could be found to take her husband to the hospital.

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After a while the child died. Too late, an ambulance arrived.

Women giving birth experience a very different situation in Bamyan’s central city hospital, where trainee midwives work alongside staff, and with the help of a trainer, diagnose and guide pregnant women, give birth, and give birth. and learn how to take care after birth.

“We want to learn and serve the people of our village,” said a 23-year-old trainee, who walks two hours to the hospital every day. UNHCR asked the trainees not to be named for security reasons.

In a small hospital clinic, with dozens of women waiting outside, a trained midwife guides a woman through a picture book on how to prepare for childbirth under the supervision of two trained health workers. .

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Women at risk of complications are admitted to the maternity ward in a nearby building where another trainee midwife takes the pregnant patient’s blood pressure. An infection. She regularly checks on a woman who gave birth six hours ago, her baby nestled by her side.

Many of the trainee midwives, some with young children in tow, have faced logistical and financial challenges, often having to travel long distances to attend the program, or live far from home. has to

“At first, I didn’t want to study nursing or become a midwife, but when I experienced problems and pains during my pregnancy, I wanted to study midwifery,” said a 20-year-old trainee. , an 18-month-old son who was struggling to access care in his village. She said many women and families in remote areas did not have the information and support they needed to prepare for a safe delivery.

“We have to change this kind of thinking… I want to go to remote areas and treat women who are facing problems.”

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