Celebrating midwives - an essential workforce, with a vital role
“When I manage to save a mother’s life or a child’s life because of my actions, that’s when I’m most satisfied.” says Nan Than Tha Oo, a midwife from Myanmar. Under Nan ThanThan Oo’s care, no mother has died during or shortly after pregnancy. Oo, is one of the amazing women recognized* by the Global Health Workforce Alliance (the Alliance) for her remarkable work in saving lives and improving maternal and child health in rural and hardship areas.
On the occasion of International Day of the Midwife, the Alliance takes the opportunity to celebrate midwives like Nan Than Tha Oo and highlights the importance of midwives’ in the healthcare continuum. Midwives work in and across a wide range of settings and make a significant contribution to the wider public health agenda.
Each year, 358,000 women die while pregnant or giving birth and some two million newborns die within the first 24 hours of life because of inadequate or insufficient health care. According to the 2011 State of the World’s Midwifery report, up to 3.6 million deaths could be avoided each year in 58 developing countries if midwifery services are upgraded by 2015.
“The close correlation between access to skilled, motivated and supported health workers, and maternal and child health is well established. Midwives are an essential component of the workforce and key players in the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. Policy makers must invest to overcome existing shortages to ensure that all people particularly the poor and those that live in remote areas, have access to skilled health midwives”, said Alliance Executive Director, Dr Sheikh.
Midwives play an instrumental role to introduce women to the health system and ensure that women and their babies receive a continuum of skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the important days and weeks after birth. Yet millions of women give birth without the support of trained midwives. The consequences are dire. In some countries, midwives don’t have access to medical necessities that could save lives.
“Training and education needs to be scaled-up urgently to ensure midwives acquire the skills they need to provide quality care. When they are properly trained, empowered and supported, midwives in the community are the most cost-effective solution” said ICM President and Alliance Board member, Francis Day-Stirk.
The message is clear – momentum is needed to sustain current efforts - the world needs midwives now, to save the lives of mothers and babies.
As part of its continuous engagement in improving maternal, newborn and child health, the Alliance is committed to working with its network of members and partners to support the scaling up the midwifery workforce. The Alliance has contributed to the development of the State of the World Midwifery report, launched in 2011. The Alliance is currently assisting the High Burden Countries Initiatives (HBCI) Technical Working Group in the development of a comprehensive National Needs Assessments for the Democratic Republic of Congo that is exploring human resources for health with midwifery competencies at the community level. The Alliance is also working with UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO in supporting the assessment and planning of midwifery practices in five francophone African countries - Mali, DRC, Guinea, Togo and Burkina Faso. This assessment will eventually be used towards the development of maternal, newborn and child health workforce (MNCHW) strategies to be included in country human resources for health (HRH) plans, facilitated by the County Coordination and Facilitation (CCF) process of the Alliance. The project is funded by the French Government as part of its commitment towards Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
As we celebrate International Day of the Midwife, the Alliance pledges its members and partners to acknowledge, recognize and support midwives worldwide through increased investment in recruitment, training, and positive working environments, ensuring a committed and motivated midwifery workforce to better serve our communities.
(*) Acknowledging the commitment and dedication of health workers delivering frontline healthcare services, the Alliance for the first time ever, presented two types of Awards during the Second Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, Bangkok 2011. The first being the Special Recognition Awards (for health workers) and the Awards for Excellence (for case stories). Nan Than Tha Oo, was the winner of the special Recognition Award.