INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE MIDWIFE- 5 MAY 2012
The word “midwife” literally translates to “With a Woman” from Latin, reflecting the practice of women seeking the assistance of other women close to them at the time of labor and childbirth. Midwives have therefore been part of the human experience since early civilization.
Up until the advent of modern midwifery in the 17th and 18th centuries when the first schools of midwifery training appeared in Europe, 20% of all births resulted in either maternal or infant death, with the most feared causes being hemorrhage and puerperal fever, or infection after childbirth. Today, there is very low maternal mortality in the developed world, thanks to the professionalization of midwifery in those countries. However, approximately 35,000 women, mostly in the developing countries of Africa and Asia, continue to suffer severe complications of childbirth daily, with about 900 deaths every day (The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011).
It is no coincidence that in most of sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rate of maternal and newborn deaths, only 40% of women have access to a professional midwife at the time of childbirth. In some countries that have been in conflict for long periods of time, only 6% to 10% have access to a trained midwife. There is a clear correlation between numbers of midwives and levels of maternal death and severe injuries like obstetric fistula.
Numerous studies show that quality midwifery services are a critical component in saving lives of women and newborns and also promote both the right of women to enjoy the highest state of health which is their birthright, and gender equity in society.
Societies that have reduced preventable maternal mortality and improved women’s access to better health and survival enjoy increased economic productivity and quality of life for all, in comparison to societies that continue to experience high levels of maternal mortality. In a recent analysis that AMREF carried out for 10 countries with high maternal mortality rates, only an average of 45% of professional midwifery posts were filled, and there was a total deficit of 30,000 midwives in just the 10 countries. It is very clear that MIDWIVES SAVE LIVES.
Midwives also provide vital care to healthy women by providing family planning, prevention and treatment of infections, nutrition counseling for pregnant women, care for newborns and ensuring that they are immunized. They are also helpful in reducing mother to child transmission of HIV, among other critical services. It is imperative that nations understand the vital connection between midwife availability and maternal and newborn survival, and focus on actions that reduce preventable maternal and newborn death. This could be done by increasing numbers of health personnel, with priority placed on rapidly increasing numbers of midwives to ensure that women receive high quality care before, during, and after pregnancy. On the international Day of the Midwife, the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) is calling on African governments and their development partners, including the civilians themselves, to invest urgently in training midwives, with a goal to eliminate the lack of midwives that denies African mothers life saving services.
AMREF is contributing towards this goal through its ‘Stand Up for African Mothers’ campaign which aims to train 15,000 midwives by 2015 and help reduce maternal mortality by 25% in sub-Saharan Africa. AMREF is also nominating an African midwife, Esther Madudu, for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. AMREF wishes all midwives across the world a very happy International Day of the Midwife, and wishes to let them know that AMREF recognizes them as heroes in our communities.