International Day of the Midwife 2014


Sub-theme: Midwives changing the world one family at a time

May 5th, 2014

Preamble: On the occasion of the celebration of the International Day of the Midwife, it is noted that lack of skilled attendance at birth remains a major cause of maternal mortality. This is because countries do not have adequate numbers of midwives to provide the needed skilled care.

It is estimated that Sub-Saharan Africa needs an additional 551,000 midwives by 2015 to bridge its deficit for midwifery. It is also estimated that at the current rate of increase in numbers of midwives, it will take 29 years to reach the WHO recommended numbers of midwives and other health professionals of 2.28 per 1000 population in Africa.

It is notable that midwives are at the heart of deliveries in Africa. More often than not, whether in the larger hospitals, or in dispensaries, midwives play a key role in ensuring safe delivery. It is imperative to have adequate numbers of midwives in all health facilities to improve skilled attendance at birth and reduce the high maternal and perinatal mortality in most African countries.

As 2015 draws near, it is noted that countries in Africa have not been able to meet the 5th MDG. This is attributed to a number of factors. By just bridging the deficit for midwives however, maternal mortality would fall by more than one third in Africa. It is therefore important that health systems not only employ but also retain adequate numbers of midwives.

It is in realization of the role that midwifery plays in saving lives of women and newborns that Amref Health Africa has prioritised training of midwives in the last few years. As such, Amref Health Africa has ongoing courses for certificate, diploma, bachelors and masters degrees offered in accordance with nursing and midwifery regulations in countries where Amref Health Africa works. Through its campaign – Stand Up for African Mothers, Amref Health Africa aims to train 15000 midwives by 2015. To date 5452 midwives have been trained through this campaign. This number will go a long way in meeting the current deficit for midwives across countries in Africa.

On this day of midwives, Amref Health Africa renews its commitment to work hand in hand with governments, development partners and civil society organizations to:

Amref Health Africa promises to:

  1. Assess adequacy of the health workforce with special attention to numbers of midwives in countries and its impact on maternal and child health and develop strategies for improvement.
  2. Work hand in hand with midwifery regulatory bodies and training institutions to continue building skills of practicing midwives through innovative training approaches that do not take the midwives away from their work for too long
  3. Using acceptable country curricular, do basic training for midwives to add numbers of midwives to the market and reduce the deficit in Africa
  4. Work closely with midwifery associations and training institutions to advocate for improved coverage, equity and quality of maternal and child health services

Ray of hope and happiness: Lelabo Kalemat Dere’s story

Lelabo is a 20 year old midwife student attending midwifery training at Arba-Minch Health Science College in EthiopiaLelabo is a 20 year old midwife student attending midwifery training at Arba-Minch Health Science College (AHSC). She joined the college through an opportunity created by Amref Health Africa via a CIDA project to address the shortage in numbers of midwives in South Omo Zone, Ethiopia.

She explains the meaning of her name as “a day of satisfaction and happiness”. Lelabo was born and raised in Salamgo, in a place called Hayloha. “My father died when I was 10 years old and my mother was the one who used to take care of me and my siblings. However, my mom also died two years back and this had made life very difficult for my siblings”, she observes. Lelabo attended her primary and secondary education (5th-10th grade) at Arba-Minch boarding school. The school provides free education to marginalised pastoralists’ children with the aim of addressing the education need of the community.

In explaining why she joined midwifery training, Lelabo said, “In our community women give birth alone in a forest. To deal with the pain, they use a kneeling down position and hold a stick to support their body. The suffering they pass through is unimaginable. I even remember many women dying alone in the forest due to heavy bleeding and some even lost their children”.  She proceeded, “Seeing that experience made me aspire to become a health professional who will help women during delivery.”

Lelabo points out that the education being provided at the college is very good and it is enabling her gain theoretical and practical knowledge and skill, which will be useful in helping her community after graduation. Lelabo describes her desire after graduation, “After I complete my education, I want to go back to my village and as my name indicates, I want to be a ray of satisfaction and happiness to my family and the whole community. I can do this by advising women to have antenatal care and follow up and give birth at the health facilities. I will also work to ease the pain and prevent the occurrence of various complications which arise during labor and delivery.” In addition to fulfilling her childhood dream of helping women during delivery, Lelabo also said that completing her education will enable her to help her siblings economically, who hardly make a living through cattle rearing.

Through CIDA funding, Amref Health Africa in Ethiopia is currently training 78 midwives at AHSC with the objective of improving maternal and child health in South Omo Zone by equipping health facilities with skilled workers. This will enhance the capacity of health facilities in providing high quality service to pregnant women and their children. 

Amref Health Africa realizes that governments are solely responsible for ensuring the right to health for their citizenry. We only support the governments to meet this objective. To that extent, Amref Health Africa urges governments as well as their development partners to meet the following obligations for improving access to midwifery care:

Amref Health Africa asks governments and development agencies supporting them to:

  1. Allocate adequate resources to train more midwives to reduce the current deficit.
  2. Absorb any unemployed trained midwives into the health system
  3. Improve working conditions for midwives as a strategy for motivating them as well as for improving quality of maternal health services
  4.  Enact policies on task sharing that ensure the application of all midwifery skills as listed by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)

For the full statement, including bibliography, please click here


Click here to learn about our Stand Up for African Mothers campaign, which aims to train 15,000 midwives by 2015.

Support our work training midwives in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2010, almost 200,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth due to a lack of access to basic medical care.

• 1 in 39 women risks dying from pregnancy or childbirth related causes, compared to 1 in 3,800 in developed countries.


• Nearly one million African children lost their mothers because they died giving birth to a brother or sister.

• Every 25 minutes, an Ethiopian woman dies from complications related to childbirth.

80 percent of these deaths could be avoided with basic and accessible medical care.

There is a critical shortage of midwives in sub-Saharan Africa. Without a midwife or skilled birth attendant, women are at a much greater risk of dying from common complications during labor. 

A midwife trained by Amref Health Africa can save 80% of women at risk. We train community midwives on hygiene, family planning, HIV/AIDS control, and when to refer a woman to a health facility if there are birthing complications.

Donating $250 to Amref Health Africa can train a community midwife and ensure safe deliveries in her village. With your help, we can save countless lives.

Click here to donate