Improving the health system is one of the greatest challenges developing nations face. The severe lack of skilled health workers jeopardizes any progress that will be made towards reducing maternal deaths. A skilled health worker with midwifery competencies can mean the difference between life and death for both a pregnant women and her baby.
On Monday September 17th 2012 the annual UNFPA- International Confederation of Midwifes (ICM), the Midwifery Program Review Workshop was officially opened. The workshop involved 30 countries from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. It was held with the purpose of strengthening regulatory measures that will further help in promoting midwifery as a profession. The workshop lasted for five days with presentations from many countries.
The Midwifery program, also known as “investing in Midwives and others with midwifery Skills” was jointly launched in 2008 by UNFPA and ICM to help countries strengthen their midwifery programs and policies. The focus of the program has been on developing and strengthening midwifery education and accreditation mechanisms, promoting the development of midwifery associations and advocating for the promotion of midwifes as a key health workforce essential for the achievement of MDGs 4and 5.
“Maternal death and disability could be reduced dramatically if every woman had access to a midwife throughout her life cycle. Quality midwifery services that are coordinated and integrated within communities and within the health system ensure a continuum of essential care beyond child birth,” said Benoit Kalasa, UNFPA Ethiopia Representative in his opening remark.
The need for midwifes is invaluable at a time where globally nearly 350,000 women die while another 50 million suffer illness and disability due to complications associated with pregnancy and child birth. Ethiopia is one of the six countries that contributes to about 50 percent of the maternal deaths; the others are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
After the launch of the midwifery program Ethiopia has quadrupled the number of midwifes from 2,050 to 8,635 in 2012.
“The results are really good and I am sure without a doubt that number will increase dramatically by 2015 we are aiming to increase the number to 9,000,” said Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health.
When it comes to resources for tackle the problems of maternal health, UNFPA Maternal Health Thematic Fund 2011 report states that, total contributions received during 2011 amounted to USD 11.3 million, compared to USD 22.7 million in 2010. The decline is largely attributed to the ongoing global financial crisis.
Despite all the work and growing recognition that investment in midwifery can have a major impact on reducing maternal and newborn death and disability, serious changes remain. Mostly because most countries still lack the policy needed to give midwifes the authorization to practice basic lifesaving skills, resulting in poor training that automatically contributes to the problem.