Yesterday was the International Day of the Midwife (IDM). Unlike other recognised and celebrated days, such as World Population Day or World Environment Day, IDM seemed to pass without notice. There was little media coverage prior to and on the day itself, or some form of awareness creation to let people know the importance of these people in our lives. This was telling, about the way midwives in this country are regarded.
According to the World Health Organisation, midwifery services are key to family planning, a safe pregnancy and childbirth as well as healthy newborns. Many maternal and newborn deaths can be prevented if competent midwives assist women before, during and after childbirth.
WHO goes on to say that midwives also support mothers to breastfeed and to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV. They check the health of the newborn and also counsel the mother on newborn care, birth spacing and family planning.
This is well highlighted in a story carried yesterday by Daily Monitor, The women who deliver babies in hard-to-reach areas, where midwives based in Gulu shared experiences on days when the women they were helping faced difficulties in giving birth.
Susan Apiyo once had to help a mother who gave birth to a child with a weak heartbeat and who (the mother) was bleeding profusely. Apiyo put her skills to work and managed to help resuscitate the baby as well as manually compress the mother’s stomach to stop the bleeding.
Filda Amono, another midwife, received a woman in labour who had given birth the year before through caesarean section, meaning her scar was not completely healed. Amono was able to detect that the woman needed specialised help and called for an ambulance to take her to a bigger hospital.
It is possible that without the foresight and help of these midwives, these women and children would have lost their lives. Imagine, therefore, how many more lives would be saved if we had enough midwives around the country.
Unfortunately, we are way below the numbers needed. According to the 2014 State of the World’s Midwifery report, Uganda has only 6,000 midwives and yet the demand is for 9,000.
The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 was aimed at improving maternal health and MDG 4 at improving child health, including that of newborns. The results of these goals, whose deadline is this year, seem to vary from one organisation to the next, but for most, the goals were not fully met.
There is no doubt that midwives are crucial in the fight to improve the lives of pregnant mothers and newborns, and should be highly supported.