From the Field

Midwives make all the difference for Afghan moms

A mother and son from Afghanistan hold hands

Midwives are the difference between life and death for women and newborns in Afghanistan, a country with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.

For every 1,000 births, about 73 infants die, according to UNICEF. And 460 women die for every 100,000 births.

In a concerted effort by many agencies to help more women and babies survive pregnancy and birth, World Vision has helped empower doctors and midwives to provide care to women in hard-to-reach locations.

In 2008, the organization launched the Better Health for Afghan Mothers and Children project in the country’s northwest, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

World Vision taught health workers in Herat province how to educate mothers on improved hygiene, help prevent diseases like pneumonia, and prevent and treat diarrhea. Workers help mothers bond with their newborns and coach them in exclusive breastfeeding so their babies receive adequate nutrition and grow up strong.

“Breastfeeding a newborn baby could help in decreasing the infant mortality rate by 22%,” says Afghan Minister of Public Health Dr. Suraya Dalil at a ceremony celebrating International Breastfeeding Week August 4. She also presented World Vision and other organizations with an award for their efforts to support the country’s push to decrease infant mortality rates.

Initially, World Vision staff trained 13 doctors and midwives on the new methods, promoting a baby-friendly atmosphere in hospitals.

They, in turn, imparted the new techniques to another 75 hospital staff throughout Herat province. The new knowledge and skills coupled with additional equipment and supplies mean the staff are better able to help children reach life in all its fullness.

The initiative has reached about 450,000 children under 5 and women of reproductive age in the province, according to USAID.

Medical workers have graduated from the program in Herat. World Vision continues to work with governments and communities throughout Afghanistan to construct health facilities, train health workers, teach life skills, and help mothers and children fight malnutrition. Current projects could impact more than 1.8 million people.

Pray for protection for mothers and infants in Afghanistan and other countries where neonatal medical services are scarce, and pray for children everywhere who are vulnerable to death from preventable causes.

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