Good news from Afghanistan are rare. It is usually violence from the part of the Taliban, kidnapping, assaults or clashes which we hear about. The question of whether there is any sense in the deployment of the German Federal Armed Forces since its very start remains controversial; after ten years, the record is mixed at best. The direction Afghanistan will take after withdrawal of the NATO-troops is uncertain and a matter of concern for politicians as well as experts. Against this background, individual stories which tell of positive changes are all the more important. For the fifth year running however, positive changes are brought about by young women who participate in a Cap-Anamur training programme. This project is a light at the end of a tunnel for girls and women in Afghanistan for whom violence, suppression and fear is part of everyday life.
Up to now as many as 114 women have participated in the state certified training as midwife or community nurse or are still undergoing the two-year course. In 2009 Cap Anamur has started the programme for midwives, since Afghanistan suffers the highest mother/infant mortality rates worldwide. Every two hours a woman is dying during birth, amounting to something like 24.000 deaths per year. Minor complications already can be fatal. Here our midwives are often able to save lives.
Cause for such shocking numbers are large provision gaps in healthcare. For every 10.000 inhabitants, there are no more than two doctors and 4,2 nurses. Only 2/3 of the rural population have access to medical care. Another factor is that up to now medical professions were reserved for men. What makes this issue particularly delicate is that it is forbidden for male personnel to treat girls and women. It is for this reason that in 2011 Cap Anamur additionally established a training programme for nurses, one of the first nursing programmes provided and financed by a non-governmental organisation.
Our students are from rural areas and upon completion of the course return to their villages with their newly acquired medical expertise. This is a unique opportunity for the women, since most female Afghans, of whom approx. 85% are analphabets, are barred from access to any education. “This training is a big chance for me”, says 22-year-old Azize Jumahan, one of the Cap-Anamur nurses. “Without Cap Anamur’s help I could not have become a nurse, since my family would have never been able to pay for accommodation, food, transport and learning material.”
While the midwives’ training is already successfully in its third year, the first forty community nurses have received their graduation certificates in September. Already in the upcoming weeks, they will be asked to apply their new skills in practice. Due to the lack of doctors in the rural regions, they will mostly have to fend on their own. In the past two years, they have however learnt everything in theory as well as in practice to supply primary health care. Part of their work is of an educational nature, such as providing the villagers with information on preventive health care; most importantly on vaccinations, hygiene and diet.
The midwives and nurses take great delight and pride in contributing towards medical care. “During the last two years, I have not only received a vocational qualification, but gained a lot of self-confidence”, 30-year-old Makay Amin beamed when she received her certificate. “The eagerness, diligence and alertness of our students continue to inspire us. For that reason we already took steps towards the next training programme”, says Faisal Haidari who is in charge of the project and who personally congratulated the women at the graduation ceremony. “It is a model project which we mean to extend beyond the frontiers of the province of Herat.”
The total costs of a two-year-training programme for one midwife or nurse, including learning material, accommodation and food amount to 3.200,- Euro – a sound investment in the future of Afghanistan.
Our engagement in Afghanistan
Within the framework of our longstanding commitment in Kunduz, Takhar and the province of Herat, and with the help of the locals, we were able to establish firm structures: 35 schools and six hospitals or health centres were built by Cap Anamur during the last 11 years in Afghanistan – and all of them are still in use.