As Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rate (one mother in eleven risks death at childbirth, according to UNICEF and WHO), the Nooristan Foundation has made midwife training a priority. During 2009 and 2010, in cooperation with the Afghan Midwives Association, we supported a two-year Marigold Foundation program to train some 80 midwives in Takhar province. The program included professional training in prenatal and postpartum care in addition to labor and delivery procedures. In a post-training survey, midwife students said that they found their role in society both “useful and respected.” Many of the participants also told us that their becoming midwives was “my country necessity” (sic) because of all the suffering and dying they had witnessed.

Now that the program in Takhar province has been successfully completed, the Foundation is exploring the possibility of working with another training program for midwives, possibly in Logar province, another underserved area. Overall, Afghanistan has been making progress, increasing the number of trained midwives from only 467 in 2002 to 2,850 today. The number of women in rural areas whose deliveries are attended by trained personnel has risen from 6 to 19 percent. Despite this, Afghanistan still has a long way to go in order to reach the target of 4,546 midwives needed to cover 90 percent of pregnancies.

The program in Takhar was made possible by a $20,000 grant that the Nooristan Foundation received from American Women for International Understanding. This in turn was matched by a similar grant to the Marigold Foundation from Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Foundation.

We have been working to develop a second midwife training program in another needy area, possibly in Logar province.