Midwives scarcity in Afghanistan leads to maternal mortality   2011-05-05 21:18:20 FeedbackPrintRSS

by Fared Behbud, Zhang Jianhua

KABUL, May 5 (Xinhua) -- "Nearly 70 percent of women dying from pregnancy related problems in my province due to the limited access to health centers and professional midwives," a young Afghan midwife Fatima Hamdard from the country's central Wardak province told Xinhua recently as the International Day of Midwife falls on Thursday.

Many Afghan families particularly in tribal areas where conservative and old tradition are respected strictly, do not allow their women especially those pregnant to visit health centers and receive medical service.

In addition to conservative tradition, the difficult terrain, battered roads and poor communication system are among the main the challenges that prevent would-be mothers to consult doctors and midwives, she said Tuesday.

The wart-torn Afghanistan is facing extreme shortage of midwives, the country's acting-Minister for Public Health Suraya Dalil said, adding the lack of midwives has been hugely contributing to maternal and child mortality.

"Currently more than 2,900 midwives are serving throughout Afghanistan but to provide basic services and to check high rate of maternal mortality here we need as many as 6,000 midwives in the country," Suraya Dalil said.

"In other word, one woman dies from pregnancy related causes in every 30 minutes in Afghanistan," she added.

Afghanistan, however, has made good progress in checking maternal and child maternity over the past 10 years.

In 2002, there was one midwifery training center and only 467 midwives in the whole Afghanistan but since then 32 provincial level midwifery schools besides medical institutes have been set up in capital Kabul and other big cities.

Some 10 years ago, one out of four Afghan newborn infant died before reaching the age of five but now one child out of six dies before getting to the age of five, according Afghan acting public health minister.

However, she stressed that there is still a long way for Afghanistan to go to further improve the status of children and mother in the war-torn country.

Some five million out of about 30 million Afghan populations have access to safe drinking water and 2.6 million have access to sanitation, according to officials.

"More than one in three women in developing countries give birth alone -- or with only relatives to oversee what is one of the most dangerous passage they will ever undergo," said Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in a statement released here in Kabul to media on the eve of International Day of Midwife.

"In some of the poorest countries, as few as 13 percent of all deliveries are assisted by a midwife or a health worker with midwifery skills," the official added in the statement.

Afghan government, according to the health minister Dalil has been committed to achieve three Millennium Development Goals (MDG) -- improve maternal health, reduce child mortality and promote gender equality as well as empowering women.

Afghanistan, according to a report released by an international aid agency called Save the Children ahead of Mother's Day on Tuesday is the worst place to be mother while Norway is the best.

According to the report, one of every 11 women dies in Afghanistan during childbirth.

"As an Afghan health workforce and a dedicated midwife, I am ready to help and provide medical assistance to any Afghan woman under any circumstances," another Afghan midwife Banafsha Hamid from country's northern Faryab province said.

Editor: Yang Lina
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