The United Nations Population Fund in Zimbabwe and its partners, the Swedish Embassy and the Confederation of Midwives Zimbabwe, have called for greater investment to strengthen the role of midwives in preventing maternal and newborn deaths in the country.
The call was made on Thursday when Harare joined the world in commemorating the International Day of the Midwife, which is celebrated on May 5th each year. It was formally launched in 1992.
The aim of the day is to celebrate midwifery and bring awareness of the importance of midwives’ work to as many people as possible, particularly in preventing maternal deaths.
This year the celebrations are commemorated under the theme; “Women and New-borns: The Heart of Midwifery”.
UNFPA Programme Analyst in Maternal Health, Agnes Makoni, told VOA Studio 7 that Harare though will hold its delayed commemorations Friday at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and Health Minister David Parirenyatwa will officiate.
According to a statement released by UNFPA, “Maternal mortality in Zimbabwe currently stands at 614 per 100,000 live births, one of the highest maternal mortality rates worldwide. This means that about 6 women die each day as a result of pregnancy-related complications. According to the International Confederation of Midwives, midwives can reduce 90% of maternal deaths where they are authorized to practice their competencies and play a vital role in pregnancy.”
In Zimbabwe, UNFPA has supported Harare and other partners to strengthen the role of midwives through activities such as “capacity building of midwifery tutors in better management of emergency obstetric cases through Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care training, equipping more than midwifery schools with teaching models and support to the local midwifery association, the Zimbabwe Confederation of Midwives.”
UNFPA said it will also continue to support midwifery institutions and tutors to keep abreast with the latest developments in their field and innovative teaching strategies for midwife trainees.
UNFPA Zimbabwe Country Representative, Cheikh Cisse Tidiane, said: “Midwives play a very pivotal role in ensuring safe motherhood. We must continue to put our money where our mouth is and invest in safe motherhood because we know that lack of access to skilled midwives has far reaching consequences for women, loss of life and serious birth injuries such as fistula that leave women ostracised in their communities.”
The UNFPA says although a lot of efforts have been made to promote the role of midwives in Zimbabwe there still remains areas that could be strengthened.
According to the National Health Strategy (2009-2015), there is an 80% vacancy for midwives in the public sector (highest in the health sector) and a 62% vacancy for nursing tutors. In addition, there are challenges such as poorly equipped midwifery schools with shortages of textbooks, training models, furniture and equipment.
Dr. Lilian Dodzo, president of Zimbabwe Confederation of Midwives, noted that there is need to invest more in midwives as they are “uniquely positioned to provide respectful, high quality care that places women and new-borns in the centre. We therefore ask the Government to continue to increase investments in the education of midwives and grow the midwifery workforce in the country.”
Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lars Ronnas, concurred adding that “midwives play a crucial part in reducing maternal and infant mortality and are exemplary role model to their fellow citizens. To recognise this, Sweden and the International Confederation of Midwives will on 6 May present the “Midwives4all” Award to a Zimbabwean midwife for outstanding achievements in midwifery and maternal health”.
Sweden, is one of the development partners that has supported UNFPA’s efforts to reduce maternal deaths. The 'Midwives4all’ award is part a global awareness campaign which seeks to increase the number of midwives to ensure that no child in the future is born with the assistance or support of a midwife.
At independence in 1980, Zimbabwe had a low maternal mortality rate of 90 per 100,000 live births before the figures went up in 1994 to 253 per 100,000 live births due to rapid deterioration in health services.