Kunar government trains nurses, midwives to improve women's health care

By Khalid Zerai

Forty-eight women are inducted into a two-year training programme for nurses and midwives November 17 in Asadabad, Kunar Province. [Khalid Zerai]

Forty-eight women are inducted into a two-year training programme for nurses and midwives November 17 in Asadabad, Kunar Province. [Khalid Zerai]

KUNAR -- Medics and officials are working to fix Afghanistan's high mortality rates for mothers and young children.

Afghanistan has some of the highest mortality rates in the world with an annual maternal mortality rate of 1,291 per 100,000 live births and an under-5 mortality rate of 55 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the Afghanistan Demographic and Health Survey of 2015.

The survey, conducted by the Central Statistics Organisation of Afghanistan, the Ministry of Public Health and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), suggests that increased access to health services can improve these grim statistics.

Educating nurses and midwives

A training programme in Kunar Province aims to do just that by increasing the number of female nurses and midwives.

The two-year training programme, funded by the Ministry of Public Health with technical assistance from French-based Aide Medicale Internationale, aims to address the lack of women's health services in all districts of the province.

Previously, health centres in the province recruited and trained nurses and midwives from Pakistan to meet demand, Kunar Governor Wahidullah Kalimzai said November 17 at the opening ceremony for the new class of 24 midwife and 24 nurse trainees in Asadabad.

"God willing, by the graduation of these [nurses and midwives], the issue in health centres will be solved," he said.

"Afghanistan is making progress, and we have female nurses and midwives in health facilities in many villages and neighbourhoods," he said, adding that the government will also focus efforts on opening more health facilities in remote areas.

The Nursing and Midwifery Training Institute previously graduated 30 nurses and midwives in the first term in 2011, and 90 in the second term in 2013, said Dr. Aziz-ur-Rahman Sapi, director of the Kunar Public Health Department.

"Therefore, the [lack] of nurses and midwives has been solved to an extent," he told Salaam Times. The new classes will put "nurses and midwives [in] all of our health facilities".

Addressing local staff shortages

Although Kunar Province has some female medics, their distribution is far from even in the province.

The province has 61 health centres, including nine large health centres that have female doctors, said Sapi, adding that the Health Department is working to recruit more female doctors to serve in the province's smaller health facilities.

"In Kunar, we have a number of health facilities available, but they do not have nurses and midwives," he said. To solve the shortage, the Nursing and Midwifery Training Institute has reserved some slots for women from the areas where health facilities do not have nurses and midwives, he said.

The trainees admitted to the programme "have committed to work in their own areas in order to serve the public", he said.

Sina, 28, a resident of Manogi District, Kunar Province, and a participant in the training programme, said she is happy to serve in her area.

"We have a clinic in our village, but it does not have nurses and midwives ... so I want to serve the women of my village after completing my two-year long education," she told Salaam Times.

Shagofa, a resident of Watapur District, shared her personal reason for going through the training.

"My aunt became ill while delivering her baby," she told Salaam Times. "Our district's health clinic was far, and the village's health centre does not have a female nurse or midwife."

"By the time we took her to the central clinic, my aunt and her child had passed away," she said. "Therefore, I want to serve my mothers and sisters [in the area]."

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