The Swedish ambassador to Kabul Andres Sjoberg said at an event on Thursday the high maternal and child mortality rate in Afghanistan is still a matter of concern and that midwives should work to help eradicate the problem.
Speaking at an event to mark International Day of the Midwife, Sjoberg said: “Midwives are always at the forefront. And you are the ones that understand what needs to be done to reduce the high mortality rate and to improve conditions for women in this country and children.”
“We celebrate the day at a time that Afghanistan still hardly uses family planning methods,” said Feda Mohammad Paikan, deputy head of healthcare at the Ministry of Public Health.
Ministry of Public Health data shows that Afghanistan has 15,000 midwives.
But a number of midwives said the lack of basic healthcare services and the lack of development in the sector are key problems they face.
“Midwives have little access to higher education therefore many of them leave their profession,” said Rabia Ehsani, a midwife.
According to 2015 United Nations estimates, Afghanistan has witnessed more than a 70 percent reduction in maternal deaths between 1990 and 2015.
Child mortality has decreased by 50 percent and neonatal mortality (within the first 28 days of life) has declined by 32 percent.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) said despite these achievements, Afghan mothers’ and children’s mortality remains among the highest in the region.
Several factors affect the health system's capacity to reduce the risks that pregnant women face – access to and use of maternal and reproductive health services is still limited and the quality of services is low as a result of service delivery capacity, particularly in difficult-to-reach rural areas, the WHO reported.
The organization stated in a study that pregnancy-related causes remain the leading risk of death for women in their childbearing years (41 percent).
Hemorrhage is by far the leading cause of maternal deaths (56 percent), followed by eclampsia (20 percent), obstructed labor (11 percent), sepsis and infections (five percent).
Infectious diseases such as diarrhea (16 percent), pneumonia (25 percent) and measles (two percent) account for almost half (43 percent) of deaths among children under five years of age, WHO reported.
The organization said in a report however that efforts to revive and strengthen midwifery since 2002 have been critical to reducing maternal mortality from over 1,100 deaths in 2000 to 396 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.