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Kabul, May 6, 2014- The Afghan Midwives Association (AMA) together with the Ministry of Public Health and the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, celebrated today the International Day of the Midwife calling on the importance to invest in midwifery education to facilitate quality care services for women and girls.

"Midwives deliver more than babies", said Dr. Annette Sachs Robertson, UNFPA Representative during her remarks at the ceremony. "They also provide other life-saving reproductive health information and services, including antenatal, postnatal care and family planning. Their contribution to society is major, and they have to be equipped with advanced competencies that just higher education can provide".

To meet international standards for midwifery education, AMA, the Government of Afghanistan and UNFPA will support the development of a bachelor degree programme at Kabul Medical University and a bridging program at Zawul Institute for existing midwives so they can choose to improve their education enrolling in the bachelor degree programme. Both programmes are aiming to start in 2014.

More than 200 midwives across the country and dozens of key stakeholders including government partners, international supporters such as UNFPA, USAID, UN agencies and many others joined AMA, reinforcing the national and international commitment to reducing maternal and child mortality and improving the health status of women and their families by strengthening the role of midwives in Afghanistan.

Around 3,000 midwives are responsible to provide maternal and newborn care to women and children in Afghanistan. According the World Health Organization recommendation, 5,000 more midwives are needed to accelerate the reduction of the high maternal mortality rates in the country.

"One woman dies every two hours from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth in Afghanistan. If all women delivered with a midwife in a facility capable of providing basic emergency care, is it estimated that more than half of maternal, fetal, and newborn deaths could be prevented", said Mursal Musawi, Executive Director, AMA.

Since 2000 Afghanistan has cut maternal death rates by two thirds and reduced child deaths by a quarter. The work of the Afghan Midwives Association contributing to this achievement was highlighted during the ceremony used also as an occasion to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of this organization.

The Afghan Midwives Association was formed in 2005 with only 80 members to support the growing number of midwives and to champion the profession through advocacy and education. Today AMA is one of the largest associations in Afghanistan, comprised of over 3,000 professional midwives and student members from its 34 provinces and is a member of International Confederation of Midwives.