Afghan women train as midwives for remote villages

STORY: This baby girl - just hours old - has already overcome great odds in Afghanistan….

just by receiving care in a hospital.

The country’s maternal and infant mortality rates are among the worst in the world.

And each month, around 24,000 Afghan women give birth in remote rural areas without access to healthcare... according to U.N. figures.

But a new program in Bamiyan province is trying to help.

It’s training women to become midwives... that will eventually return to remote areas.

“Our society is facing many problems in terms of healthcare,” says this trainee, adding:

“Even with the new generation of technology we are still witnessing mothers and children dying.”

Reuters isn’t identifying her, or any of the 40 trainees from provincial villages over safety concerns from the U.N.’s refugee agency.

It’s spearheading the project alongside a local charity.

The women are learning basic but crucial skills that could save lives.

The U.N. estimates an Afghan woman dies every two hours during pregnancy and childbirth.

Doctors and aid workers say isolation can become a death sentence.

“There are so many problems in the villages,” says this trainee.

The logistical challenges can be enormous, adds the head of the UNHCR’s Bamiyan office, Mohammad Ashraf Niazi.

“When the roads are blocked, of course there is no means of transportation, even people use donkeys to move their patients to the clinic centres, but sometimes even there is no opportunity for them for that as well…”

In a small village in the province’s Folaldi Valley, it’s a story that sadly hits close to home for Aziza Rahimi.

Her baby died shortly after birth last year.

Her husband couldn’t get a car, much less an ambulance.

"It was too hard for me when I lost my baby. As a mother, I nurtured the baby in my womb for nine months but then I lost him, it is too painful.”

The trainees are trying to prevent stories like hers.

Since taking over in 2021, Taliban authorities have barred women from universities and most charity jobs... but they have made exemptions in the healthcare sector.

The UNHCR says local health authorities are supportive of the project.

It’s hoping to expand the project to a neighboring province in the future.