Educate a Midwife - Save Women in Afghanistan

by Jhpiego
A Young Midwife, Shahrbanoo
A Young Midwife, Shahrbanoo

She is little more than a girl, but on this day in the village of Shahidan, Shahrbanoo proves to be a woman of confidence, conviction and capability. While surveying the maternal health of the community, the young midwife knocks on the door of a small house where she knows a pregnant woman has given birth.

How is the mother, Shahrbanoo asks. The man at the door refuses to let her in.

Backing away, Shahrbanoo moves onto the next house. But when her survey work is done, the Jhpiego-trained midwife returns to the house where she has been turned away. She knocks firmly: I am a midwife. I am here to help.

The man resists, is skeptical that this young girl who has neither medicines nor any tools can help his wife. He has given up hope.

Shahrbanoo insists that she enter. This time, the man relents.

Inside, the wife, a mother of six, is still bleeding after giving birth. Shahrbanoo examines her. The mother is likely to bleed to death if the placenta isn’t removed. There isn’t enough time to get her to a health facility. Shahrbanoo finds a plastic bag to protect herself, uses it as a glove and, with the skills she has learned in midwifery school, reaches in and removes the retained placenta, gently massages the uterus. The bleeding stops.

This is the first life this young midwife has saved, and with confidence and resolve she is ready to save even more lives. 

Shahrbanoo graduated as a midwife from the Bamyan midwifery school six months ago. Jhpiego has led the reestablishment of midwifery education in Afghanistan since 2002.

Mozghan Mohammadzai, AMA Vice President
Mozghan Mohammadzai, AMA Vice President

During the recent International Congress of Midwives in Durban, South Africa, one of the key messages was midwives do so much more than deliver babies. Mozhgan Mohammadzai, of Afghanistan, is a prime example. Educated through the Jhpiego-supported national midwifery program, Mozhgan has helped deliver more than a  1,000 babies. Today, as a leader in the Afghan Midwives Association (AMA), the 23-year-old is focused on building the ranks of her profession and developing women leaders across her country. 

From the time she took her first job as a midwife at a
hospital in Herat, Afghanistan, Mozhgan took great pride in helping
women who previously gave birth without a skilled birth attendant at their
side. Living in a rented room near the Gulran District Hospital, the 2005
graduate of the Health Science Institute of Herat spent two years filling a
void in a place where there were previously no female physicians or midwives.

“Working with women and saving mothers’ lives gave me a special feeling,
which I never felt before, and made me more confident that I made the right
decision to become a midwife,” says Mozhgan, AMA vice president.

After her two years in Gulran, she went to work for the Afghan
Midwives Association (AMA) as a provincial representative, and joined the staff
of the regional maternity hospital in Herat City as the head midwife. Since 2009,  Mozhgan, whose family
includes many women who are physicians and teachers, has worked as a program
officer with Jhpiego’s midwifery education program in Kabul. Convincing
her relatives to allow her to move far from home was not easy—it remains culturally
unacceptable for a young woman to strike out on her own. 

 But she says it was worth the struggle: “I’m proud of my
profession and it feels good working for mothers and midwives through Jhpiego
and the AMA.”

I wanted to send two quick updates from Team Jhpiego that I thought might be of interest.  Thanks again for your continued support!

First – Jhpiego is leading an online effort to support moms, babies, and the Midwives who keep them healthy in honor of the upcoming International Day of the Midwife.  On May 5th, people from all over the world will be marching to raise awareness about why midwives matter – and no matter where you are you can join the effort!  Check out to commit to walk, or to share your story about why midwives matter.  It’s easy, it’s free, and you’ll be supporting the men and women working to combat the nearly half a million preventable pregnancy-related deaths a year.

Second – check out this youtube video of Jhpiego-trained Midwives in action in Afghanistan.  From Kabul to Kandahar, Jhpiego is working to rebuild the health infrastructure for Afghanistan’s most vulnerable women.  With Jhpiego’s support, the number of midwives working in Afghanistan has gone from less than 450 at the fall of the Taliban, to more than 2,000 today.  With your help that number will continue to grow!

Thank you again for all you do.



Jane Otai, left, speaks with woman in Nairobi
Jane Otai, left, speaks with woman in Nairobi

Pregnancy should not be a death sentence, and with your help Jhpiego is helping skilled birth attendants bring women safely through their childbearing years in neighborhoods around the world.  I want to share with you two recent stories about Jhpiego workers who are making a difference and building local health capacity in their communities.  Feroza Mushtari of Afghanistan, featured here in the Daily Beast, had to don men’s clothing in order to dodge the Taliban when she rushed a laboring neighbor to the hospital.  On that day she vowed to become a midwife, and has since been working with Jhpiego to help bring moms through healthy deliveries.     

A native of Kenya, Jhpiego’s Jane Otai has worked to improve access to health services for mothers and families in the Korogocho slum of Nairobi, Kenya.  Before joining Jhpiego, Ms. Otai recalls declaring health facts to new-moms. Now, Ms. Otai says, “working with Jhpiego has taught me that we shouldn’t be dictating to people. Instead we give them training and equipment and get them thinking about how to improve their lives.”  Click here to read the full article.

With your generous support, Jhpiego can continue to help local communities take ownership of their health systems, ensuring that women can care for themselves and their families for generations to come.

On March 16th, Global Giving will give a 30% match for every donation made to Jhpiego.  Please donate on March 16th to make your dollars go the furthest!

Thank you again for your generous support to provide innovative health solutions to midwives, nurses and health providers in places like Kenya, Afghanistan, and Nepal.

Melody McCoy

Director of External Affairs and Communications

New mother in Afghanistan
New mother in Afghanistan


Three Children in Afghanistan
Three Children in Afghanistan

Thank you for your generous donation to provide critical midwife training to women in Afghanistan.  The lifetime risk of maternal death in Afghanistan is as high as 1 in 6, one of the highest rates in the world.  That translates to one woman dying every 27 minutes due to childbirth.  With your help we are preventing those needless deaths

I wanted to share with you a recent story from the field about a group of Afghan midwives who had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Cairo for international training.  Many of the 30 women who participated had never traveled without a male chaperone, let alone left the country of Afghanistan, and the regionally diverse students picked up new skills to take back to soon-to-be moms in their communities.

With your continued support, our field staff will continue working with local women to create a generation of skilled birth attendants.  Since 2002, more than 2,500 midwives have been trained to serve moms-to-be.  Together, we can put an end to needless pregnancy related deaths one mother at a time.

Notes From the Conference

Midwife Shaiesta has delivered dozens of babies in Afghanistan, has educated numerous Afghan mothers on the benefits of safe birth spacing, and given countless other women information about how to raise healthy families. What she had never done before was leave her home and family to further her professional development and career.  “This was an unforgettable visit for me, and I promise to share the knowledge that I have gained here with all midwives and midwifery teachers,” Shaiesta said.

As another participant at the conference shared, the “experience wasn’t just about the training,” it was about gaining professional confidence in a society with few options for women.  Amana told trainers that the conference made her feel proud to be a midwife, giving her confidence in herself as an Afghan woman.  It’s stories like this that keep Jhpiego running.

Your support is already providing training material and lifesaving medical supplies to women dedicated to helping their fellow sisters.  With your donations we are teaching local women the tools of the trade, helping them pass those skills onto others, and ensuring that there will be skilled midwives in Afghanistan long after we’re gone.  I look forward to our continued work together, and hope that you will continue your generous support.


Melody McCoy

Midwives at Conference
Midwives at Conference



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Organization Information


Location: Baltimore, MD - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Melody McCoy
Baltimore, Maryland United States

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