Malalai: Learning to Save Lives

A trainer shows women students how to check blood pressure and other vital signs. Photo: UNDP / Omer Sadaat / 2016

01 February 2018, Paktia – Malalai Noori, 19, lives in Paktia province in east Afghanistan, a conservative area where many families do not allow their girls to go to school. When Malalai told her family she wanted to become a nurse, she was lucky enough to get their support. The neighbours, however, tried to talk them out of this decision.

“My neighbors told my father to stop me from going to nursing school,” said Malalai. “They were worried that my doing so would encourage their daughters to go to school as well. They also said I had no future as a nurse.”

But Malalai and her father ignored the neighbors and she became a student at one of six nursing schools funded by UNDP and the Global Fund, in coordination with the Ministry of Public Health.

At the schools, students have both theoretical and practical classes covering all aspects of nursing care, including pain management, dosages, bandaging, healthcare ethics and mass vaccination, as well as training in use of computer software and English language. Practical work takes place in labs equipped to carry out blood, pregnancy and malaria tests.


  • Malalai’s dream was to become a nurse.
  • Her neighbors tried to discourage her parents from sending her to nursing college.
  • Malalai went to nursing college anyway.
  • Now she teaches in nursing college, and saves lives in her community.

Malalai finished the course in 2016, and she is now a lecturer in a private medical institute where she earns 15000 Afghanis per month. She not only spreads her knowledge via teaching, but also assists neighboring patients living with severe conditions. She gets a lot of joy from helping people. 

One evening not long ago, Malalai returned home tired after work, and was sitting in her yard, marking some test papers. A knock came at the door. A young woman stood there in tears as she asked Malalai for help. Her daughter had been bitten by a poisonous snake and was gravely ill.

Malalai ran towards the woman’s house and found the girl lying on the floor surrounded by grief-stricken relatives.

“I was able to provide first aid and make sure her condition was stable until she could reach a hospital. Three days later, I saw the same eight-year old girl playing on the street with the other kids,” says Malalai.  “This made me really happy.”

The nursing schools set up by UNDP/the Global Fund in Baghlan, Farah, Nooristan, Paktia, Takhar and Saripul provinces of Afghanistan have trained more than 200 nurses like Malalai. No doubt they will go on to save many more lives.

UNDP has been selected as the Principal Recipient for four Global Fund grants: TB, health system strengthening, HIV/AIDS and malaria. Our work to support the provision of public health services in these areas includes advocacy, education and technical support for better diagnosis, treatment and associated care so that patients can enjoy empowered and dignified lives.


UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Afghanistan 
Go to UNDP Global