From IRIN, excerpt:
BAMYAN, 12 August 2009 (IRIN) - When the first and only midwifery school was opened in 2004 in Bamyan city, central Afghanistan, not a single application was received for the 18-month course. Today, the school has to turn down dozens of applications from women all over the province because it cannot accommodate more than 25 students at a time.
“We have earned the peoples’ trust in our work,” Saleha Hamnavazada, coordinator of Bamyan Midwifery School, told IRIN. “We have created a reliable learning environment for women and have assured their men that women are totally safe and protected here.”
Conservative traditions in Afghanistan have restricted women’s and girls’ access to education, work, healthcare and other social activities across the country, albeit in varying degrees.
Women and girls are often stopped from going to health centres or schools because of a lack of female health workers and teachers.
The consequences are severe: annually, 24,000 women die before, during or just after childbirth because of a lack of healthcare; and the female illiteracy rate is one of the highest in the world at more than 85 percent, according to UN agencies…
“Maternal death during child delivery has decreased by about 50 percent,” Zainab Rezayee, an obstetrician in Bamyan Provincial Hospital, told IRIN, referring to her hospital. Both Bamyan Provincial Hospital and Bamyan Midwifery School are managed by the Aga Khan Development Network.
In 2004, two to four babies were born every month at health centres in rural Bamyan. Today, more than 35 are born in medical centres every month thanks to 41 graduated midwives in the province. Deliveries at Bamyan Provincial Hospital have increased from 30 a month in 2004 to more than 130 in 2009, Rezayee said.
Across the country, the percentage of women receiving antenatal care increased from 4.6 percent in 2002 to 32 percent in 2006, while the rate of child deliveries attended by a skilled health worker increased from 8 percent to over 19 percent in the same period, according to NAM.
In addition to facilitating childbirth, midwives increase women’s awareness about family planning, HIV/AIDS and transmittable sexual diseases…