“I feel the smile on the mother’s face and the way she holds and kisses her baby… My biggest wish is to make every pregnancy and birth safe.”
Feroza Mushtari is one of Afghanistan’s leading maternal health advocates. She studied at Afghanistan’s first formal midwifery programme, graduating at a time when the country was one of the most dangerous places to be an expectant mother and few women had access to specialized midwife services.
Before Feroza started work in 2004, there were around 1,600 deaths of women for every 100,000 births in Afghanistan. Today this number has been reduced to 327 deaths. Child mortality rates have been similarly reduced.
Feroza has worked with several national and international organizations, including training midwives in a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) obstetrics project between 2006 and 2012, and a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) training project for midwives in 2014. She is currently the Acting President of the Afghan Midwives Association.
Feroza's story. In her own words.
I am Feroza Mushtari, a midwife from Afghanistan. Fortunately after graduation in 2004 until now I have been working in this field. I joined the Afghan Midwives Association after my graduation.
As part of my job I have always tried to save pregnant mothers when they give birth. The first aim of a midwife is to be with mothers and assure them of a safe birth process.
I think my job is very important today in Afghanistan. It is related to the mother and child mortality rate in Afghanistan which is related by a variety of different reasons. Every hour one mother dies and the mortality rate for babies is also high.
The action of midwives in this issue is very effective. Fortunately today midwives in Afghanistan have a very good position. National and international co-workers help us a lot in the training of midwives, capacity building of midwives and funding projects regarding the health of mothers and babies in Afghanistan.
Regarding the situation of mothers and babies in Afghanistan, the midwives’ job is a priority, because they are fighting on the frontline against the problem.
Fortunately, from the beginning, I worked in different projects in the midwife field. I have witnessed the cooperation of international donors, including the United Nations. This has helped a lot with midwife training programs, especially programs supported by UNFPA. UNFPA has also helped a lot with in-service training.
UNICEF also helped a lot, supporting and organizing for mothers and babies. They funded training on how to take care of mothers and babies during emergency births.
We had UNFPA-supported projects for the training of midwifes, including how to take care of babies during birth and prevention of infection. UNICEF has had the same projects.
It is fortunate that we are directly involved with these organizations and they have been helping us to gather midwives together annually. This is an opportunity for midwives to share their experiences with each other and learn new things.
I think the only investments in Afghanistan that have been very effective are the investments in midwifery, especially those by the United Nations. Fortunately, the Ministry of Health in Afghanistan is also aware of the importance of midwives and is paying special attention to this field, especially in the provinces. We also have community-based comprehensive programs in the provinces.
We have different programs in the provinces for midwives, including capacity-building, funded by international donors and implemented both by locals and international agencies.
We have different programs for promoting the capacity of midwifes in the provinces, including in-service training for those who have graduated and are now working in the field. We have more provincial programs than there are in the capital.
Around two years before I first started work in 2004, research had taken place in Afghanistan which showed 1, 600 deaths for each 100,000 births. This number was shocking and showed that one mother passed away every 27 minutes. It was unacceptable for the Afghan community. It is fortunate that activities carried out by midwives have reduced this number and today from every 100,000 birth we have 327 deaths. Similarly, the mortality rate has also been reduced for newborn babies. Right now we are losing one mother every hour, so we see some reduction in this regard. It means that investment in capacity-building of midwives has been effective.
There is no doubt that midwifery will continue as far as human beings exist. Mothers need someone to take care of them and be with them during birth. Fortunately we have national and international supporters in this field. They are committed, especially the Ministry of Health, which has a five year strategy. There are also national and international supporters, and we are optimist for the future.
Midwives also have commitments in this respect. I think by such coordination we will have the lowest rate of mother and child mortality.
As a human being, when I help others and make them happy, I think this is the most sacred and dearest job. Whenever I help a mother and she takes her baby in her arms with a smile, it is the biggest prize for me and gives me energy and motivation to work even harder. The relations between me and mothers makes me stronger and I love my job.
My biggest hope is that every pregnancy and birth is safe and that mothers have a safe motherhood without any risk. This is my big hope: that we don’t lose any mother during or after birth. Fortunately, with the current efforts, I can feel my dreams coming true.
As a midwife and as an Afghan woman I want to thank the United Nations for their great contribution to make maternal health safer in my country. We owe them.
Strong UN. Strong Afghanistan.
The UN in Afghanistan celebrates its partnership with Afghans who are making a difference for a strong Afghanistan.