Linda Norgrove Foundation to develop a post-graduate medical training programme for women in Afghanistan
The following article was written by John Norgrove, Co-founder and Trustee of the Linda Norgrove Foundation.
It’s not that surprising to hear that there is a shortage of doctors in Afghanistan but, crucially, it’s the lack of female doctors which impacts on women’s health. It’s culturally difficult for many women to be allowed to be helped by a male doctor, especially with gynaecological issues, and there just aren’t that many female doctors. This situation results in the highest level of maternal birth mortality in the world.
To address this, over the past few years, LNF has developed a programme of providing fee scholarships allowing young Afghan women to study medicine for five years.
Next year will be a milestone because two scholarship students will graduate and will need to arrange practical training for a couple of years before they can apply to become registered to practise as doctors. Little is straightforward in Afghanistan – a GP system adequately funded by the state doesn’t exist, hospitals have a shortage of experienced surgeons to lead, equipment is outdated, and it can be difficult for women to work alongside men.
But there’s little point in funding women to spend five years studying if they are then unable to obtain good practical training, so LNF are investigating what options are available and whether they might be able to set up a quality training programme for their graduates to follow. Fortunately, they are now being helped by volunteer academics and medics from the University of Dundee who, having relevant experience and knowledge, are working to identify the best organisations to team up with and what training to provide. The next stage for them will be to research likely sources of grant funding for the programme.
The Linda Norgrove Foundation was set up in memory of the Scottish aid worker who was kidnapped and subsequently died during a failed rescue attempt in Afghanistan in October 2010. The charity, run by her parents from their croft on the Isle of Lewis, gives small grants to women and children affected by the war in Afghanistan.
Currently LNF provides 21 medical scholarships, giving a flat rate grant of $1,500 pa. This autumn they will select another 15 from over 140 applicants. Whilst some of the scholarships are funded from their own resources, most come from generous individuals, mainly Scottish, who have signed up to pay for a young woman's studies for the full five years. Their donations go undiminished to the women they support.
LNF grants certainly change the lives of individual women in Afghanistan – this is a fairly typical story of one of the women who was successful in receiving a scholarship.
Amina is from the small town of Ishkashim in the remote Afghan northeast. Amina did well at school but her shopkeeper father forcibly married her off at 16. It didn’t work and she was back home within a year. Currently she lives at home in a household of 12 because her father also supports the family of her uncle who is addicted to drugs. As a very attractive young woman, she was afraid that her father would sell her to somebody else. With an LNF scholarship, that changed.
Anyone interested in sponsoring a medical student should contact LNF to request a factsheet - www.lindanorgrovefoundation.org