TOYIN ADEBAYO, ABUJA
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said it has become imperative that Africans appreciate the valuable contribution of midwives in health-care teams.
Saying, 1 in 2 which accounts for 53% of African midwives have reported feeling disrespected by fellow health workers in the course of their work.
Moeti made this known in her message to commemorate the 2020 International Day of the Midwife to recognize the vital roles of midwives in assisting women with pregnancy, childbirth and during the postpartum period.
The theme for the International Day of the Midwife this year is “Midwives with women: celebrate, demonstrate, mobilize, unite,” which emphasizes the importance of mobilizing communities and maintaining provision of essential health services, particularly as countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to her, “In the African Region, between 2000 and 2017, maternal and newborn deaths have declined by 40% in the African Region, thanks largely to the commitment of midwives working with other health professionals.
“Countries are making strides in improving the skill and working environment for midwives. Ghana has introduced a graduate diploma in midwifery and revised job descriptions to give midwives more autonomy. Lesotho is also interested in providing advanced levels of pre-service training.
“In the African Region, WHO has worked with countries to strengthen regulatory frameworks, and competency-based and standardized education, training and practice for midwives, including integrated training for nursing and midwifery. Faith-based training institutions in Botswana, Cameroon, Lesotho and Malawi are all using WHO’s midwifery curricula. Experts from Sierra Leone, Zambia and WHO collaborating centres on nursing and midwifery are supporting several countries to review their curricula and regulatory instruments in line with WHO guidance.
“In the COVID-19 response, we are training nurses and midwives in infection prevention and control to limit the transmission of this virus in health facilities. So far, over 3000 front-line health workers, including midwives, have participated in webinars. These activities complement trainings led by chief nurses and midwifery officers in countries.
“Countries are also making sure essential health services, like safe deliveries, are not disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Malawi, for instance, risk allowances for health workers, including midwives, have been increased, and 2000 more health workers have been recruited including 700 nurse and midwives”, she stated.
Moving forward, we must ensure that the voices, perspectives and leadership of midwives, nurses and women are included and respected.
The Regional Director, therefore, called on governments, academic institutions, civil society organizations, and partners to invest in midwifery development from education to practice with appropriate regulatory frameworks, support materials and human resources. This is imperative to improve health outcomes for women and infants.
She congratulated midwives across the Africa Region for your professionalism and commitment to ensuring the safety of mothers and their newborn babies, even on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.