KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan– The Kunar provincial governor, national and provincial government leaders, and the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team dedicated the province’s first midwifery training center, Dec. 22, to decrease Afghan maternal and infant mortality rates.
Fazlullah Wahidi, Kunar provincial governor, Dr. Najilla, Ministry of Public Health’s Health Strengthening System deputy, Pashtoon Azfar, Afghan Midwifery Association and Ghazanfer Institute of Health director, tribal elders, and Kunar medical professionals gathered in downtown Asadabad and dedicated the province’s first midwifery facility.
Along with the ribbon cutting, there was a ceremony recognizing 24 women from around the province currently enrolled in the first midwife program and facility tour. The women were selected from 42 candidates to attend the 18-month long course to learn prenatal and post partum care for expectant mothers and their babies.
Wahidi said the midwife program and the facility are important projects for the people of Kunar.
“I’m sure this will reduce the mortality rates in the province. We have fewer facilities than in other provinces, so we are thankful for the ministry of public health and our international partners for working together to make this happen,” Wahidi said. “This is directly for the benefit of the women of Kunar. For the sustainability of the program, we need private organizations and (international partners) to continue to support these projects.”
Dr. Isanullah Faxli, Asadabad hospital administrator, agreed with the governor and said the program provides necessary services to a mother and child.
“If we have a trained staff and equipped clinic, the services they provide can decrease the mortality rate,” Faxli said. “In 2004, there were only 150 deliveries per year because people didn’t have access to services. Now we have 350 deliveries per month in Asadabad alone. That is because people trust there is a hospital and staff here to help them.”
Faxli said the public health workers coordinate with community leaders to encourage people to come to the hospital to seek treatment, and the midwifery course will increase their ability to provide medical care.
“Before we would refer cases to Jalalabad and Kabul or Pakistan, but now there is no need because we’re capable of managing them in our hospital. People are confident in this hospital and trust the services and abilities of the staff,” Faxli said. “We examine about 12,000 patients per month, admitting about 900 patients per month, and perform 200 major surgeries per month. As people become more confident, they seek more care and are willing to have more babies.”
According to U.S. Navy Lt. Jed Juachon, PRT medical officer, because there is a lack of obstetricians in Kunar, the midwife program is essential for handling basic prenatal care, birthing and post partum care.
“A problem in Kunar is a high maternal and infant mortality rate, which is preventable with early treatment and care that can be provided by these midwives,” Juachon said. “The PRT provided modules to help train the students, which included human models and charts. They needed hands-on versions to practice on before they go out there for real, and that is what we delivered to them.”
According to Dr. Mohammed Asif, midwifery program director, the women started the course in September and will go back to their districts when done with the training.
“They live here on the (site), and those with children are provided childcare while they learn. Once done, they will go back to their districts and work in the hospitals and clinics,” Asif said.
Asif said the current program is only funded for this first course, but the provincial government is looking for more donors and assistance to extend the course beyond the initial cadre.
“The Norwegian Afghanistan Committee and its implementing partner, Health Care and Social Development Organization, and the PRT have been generous in getting this course (started). We still need more help to have the program beyond the 18 months,” Asif said.
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