In the press release announcing the theme of this year's International Day of the Midwife (IDM), attention was drawn to the third of the Millennium Development Goals: Promote gender equality and empower women. It was noted that midwives are in a privileged position to support this goal, and until it succeeds they will never be able fully to achieve their mission of safe motherhood. In many countries of the world there is still far to go to reach this goal, but ICM is proud to present news from each of its regions showing that midwives are driving forward this aim with striking success.
This is a country that has suffered over decades of war, unrest and political regimes repressive to women. It is with great pleasure therefore ICM can announce the formation and the first National Congress of the Afghan Midwives Association (AMA), held on the International Day. Scottish midwife Sheena Currie, who has been working Afghanistan for some years, writes: 'Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, witnessed a gathering of more than 200 midwives from all over the country on May 4-5 for the first National Congress of the Afghan Midwives Association (AMA). Midwives from 15 other countries participated in the Congress to show their support for the Afghan midwives. Among them was Judi Brown, Deputy Director of the ICM, as well as midwives from the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) who provided technical assistance in organising the event. On the day preceding the Congress, some 70 selected midwives explored issues in the professionalisation of midwifery in Afghanistan, which included reviewing the ICM Code of Ethics, drafting an AMA Constitution and electing the AMA's new officers.
'Pashtoon Azfar, the newly elected AMA President, led the midwives as they took a pledge to "work well and with the aim that all pregnant women have access to quality midwifery care."
'With an estimated 1,600 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, Afghanistan currently has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. In remote parts of the country, where there is virtually no access to health care, there are nearly 6,500 deaths per 100,000 live births. One child in four will die before 5 years of age, and the neonatal mortality rate is the highest in the world. A primary reason for these staggering statistics is the lack of trained midwives due to a weakened educational system, gender inequalities, and political instability after years of war and...