Despite ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, there has been considerable progress in the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality over the last decade. In large part due to establishment of a successful community midwifery education program and increase in the number of midwives from 467 to more than 4000. Still 1 in 50 Afghan women will die from a pregnancy-related cause during her lifetime, and many more midwives are needed to ensure women in remote and insecure areas have access to quality care. Among the many challenges, midwives face is a lack of opportunities for professional development. The current education level of midwives is low which deprives them to grow professionally as leaders, managers and as faculty members in the universities. Consequently, many competent midwives have left or leaving the profession.
In 2014, the Afghan Midwives Association started a pilot “bridging” program providing an opportunity for diploma midwives to earn a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery. The program was started with 30 students at Zawal Institute of Higher Education, a private institute in Kabul, Afghanistan with financial support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This presentation will share experiences from ongoing implementation of the bridging program, including findings from direct observation of clinical, theoretical and skill lab activities including reviewing teachers’ documents and interviews with students and teachers.
The Post Registered Midwife Bachelor of Science in Midwifery has great potential to contribute to sustainable improvements in availability and quality of SRH services in Afghanistan. The program provides learning opportunities to prepare each graduate to function as an autonomous midwife who can practice based on ICM standards and core competencies, educate future midwives, design and conduct research, or engage at policy development and implementation.
With continued efforts, including establishment of assessment tools/standards to ensure program quality, and harmonization of certification programs for different levels of midwifery education, the program can be a great success and model for other crisis-affected countries with midwife shortages.