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    Midwives Deliver Hope for Afghan Women



    Story by Staff Sgt. Whitney Hughes 

    86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (MTN)

    CHARIKAR, Afghanistan - Stretch marks, maternity leave, baby names, mood swings, morning sickness; these are some of the many concerns that weigh on a woman's mind during pregnancy. With all of the changes to her body, and soon to her life, there is much for a pregnant woman to worry about. But in Afghanistan, the country with the world's 4th highest Maternal Mortality Rate, women must first worry about their very survival.

    Especially in remote areas of the country, away from state of the art technology, medications, and hospitals women's lives and their pregnancies are at risk because of the lack of medical care. That is why the class of 29 women from Kapisa, Parwan, and Panjshir provinces who graduated as midwives became an essential piece of Afghanistan's medical community, April 10.

    "If a woman becomes sick [during pregnancy] she cannot tell a male doctor the real problem. Now they have somebody to go to. The midwife is a champion for Afghan women, they have bravery and zeal," said Abdul Basir Salangi, the Governor of Parwan. Salangi was one of the many government officials, including the Governor of Kapisa and Health Ministry Officials, who showed up to congratulate the midwives on their momentous achievement.

    The graduation ceremony was the culmination of 18 months of training, all of which was to International Midwifery Standards, included studying in labs, libraries, and hospitals, according to Dr. Hamidi Shahgowl, the manager of the midwife students at the midwife academy in Charikar. Since its inception in 2005, this is the third class to graduate from the academy, funded by USAID and the Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team.

    In addition to funding, the PRT also oversees the midwife program and ensures that it is running smoothly. Their goal is to ensure the system runs smoothly so that more women in the future can be in the same position as the 29 women were on their graduation day, said Chris Robbins, the Operations Officer for the PRT.

    Although the ceremony marked the end of their formal schooling, it marks the beginning of their education in healthcare, and only scratched the surface of their enormous commitment to their community. At the end of the ceremony, the women took an oath and entered into a five-year service commitment as midwives, an enormous undertaking for these young women.

    "Serving for a mother is serving for Afghanistan," said Khoja Ghulam Ghous Abubaker, the governor of Kapisa.

    This service is an enormous charge, with the alarming Maternal Mortality rate, which means 16 in every 1,000 women die during child birth. In 2005 there were 26,000 maternal deaths in Afghanistan compared to 440 in the United States (according to the World Health Organization).

    These shocking statistics can most likely be attributed to a lack of medical care. For women who live in the rural provinces like Kapisa, Panjshir, and Parwan they can be days away from a medical facility and regular trips to the hospital for check-ups are out of the question. In addition, they also might not be allowed to travel due to customs that forbid them to travel without a male companion. Still more, even if they reach a medical facility they are not likely be treated, as women are discouraged from being treated by male doctors. With little to no emphasis on female education, Afghan women have an 86 percent illiteracy rate, so female doctors are rare.

    This is why midwives are not only imperative to Afghan women's survival, but they are eager to start making a difference.

    "Women that are pregnant are not allowed out of the house [to go to a doctor], but if they have a clinic to go to they will let them. All pregnant women should go to the hospital so that midwives can help them," said one of the 29 graduates.

    She will be among the 115 other women that, because of what they learned at the midwife academy, will be able to make a difference for their community and their country.

    "For all families that don't allow girls to go to school, they should, because we have a peaceful province and they can learn to serve their country. My purpose is to serve the Afghan people and my community," she said.



    Date Taken: 04.19.2010
    Date Posted: 04.19.2010 06:16
    Story ID: 48324
    Location: CHARIKAR, AF

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    Downloads: 428