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New health facilities and training to provide vital lifeline to women in northern Afghanistan

KABUL, 3 June 2004 – Women in northern Afghanistan are to be provided with improved obstetric care services following the opening of the region’s first Centre of Excellence in emergency obstetric care on Saturday 5 June.

The centre, which will serve a population of 1.7 million people, is expected to handle more than 3,700 cases of complicated pregnancies each year. On average, 1,100 maternal deaths occur in the northern region annually, mostly due to lack of access for women to health care services and properly qualified medical staff.

The Centre of Excellence, based in Mazar-i-Sharif’s main hospital, combines new equipment, drugs and facilities with improved training for staff. Last year, four core staff at the hospital received training to become trainers themselves in emergency obstetric care, and this weekend 23 doctors, midwives, anesthetists, and health trainers will complete a five week training programme on the management of obstetric emergencies that will help improve maternal health services in five provinces in the northern region. The training programme – the first of its kind in the northern region – has been developed and implemented by UNICEF and JHPIEGO, with the support of Japan and Australia.

The competency-based training programme is part of a nationwide initiative that will reach 70 core health workers in 18 provinces of Afghanistan by the end of 2004, and complements other programmes designed for midwives and maternal health practitioners.

The new Centre of Excellence in Mazar is part of a national programme led by the Afghan Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF that aims to tackle Afghanistan’s high levels of maternal mortality.

UNICEF and its partners aim to ensure that every province in Afghanistan has a functioning obstetric care facility by the end of 2004, and will establish a total of five Centres of Excellence around the country. To date 25 provinces now have a basic emergency obstetric care facility.

The Mazar Centre of Excellence is managed on behalf of the Afghan Ministry of Health by Save the Children UK, with US$260,000 worth of financial support from UNICEF.

For further information please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media - +93 (0)7960 7400




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