Why the world needs more midwives
May 5th marks the International Day of the Midwife, and here at Merlin we’re championing midwives working in some of the world’s toughest places.
In the UK we take it for granted that expectant mothers are guided through pregnancy with the help of a midwife. To give birth without a midwife present would be unthinkable, yet each year 48 million women give birth without the support of a trained midwife, and over 2.4 million of those women give birth utterly alone.
This tragically results in hundreds of thousands of women in developing countries dying from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth; millions more suffer from infection and disability. More than 800, 000 newborn babies die during child birth, with over 3 million dying before they are even one month old. The majority of these lives could be saved by a skilled birth attendant.
Simply providing skilled care before, during and after childbirth can reduce the rate of maternal mortality and save the lives of newborn babies and infants. The difference one trained midwife can make, even with basic equipment is enormous. Midwives are vital, they save lives.
However many countries where Merlin works are facing a chronic shortage of midwives.
In Afghanistan, there is 1 trained midwife per 20,000 people. One guaranteed way to stem the needless loss of life we’re seeing in countries like Afghanistan is to increase the number of trained midwives in that country.
In Afghanistan, we have established a successful Community Midwife Education programme, which trains women in rural communities to be a midwife, on the basis that they will return to and help the women in their communities.
A similar programme is currently set up in Liberia. The Zwedru Midwifery Training School is helping provide Liberia with a new generation of community midwives through its free 2-year, full-time course.
These new midwives in Afghanistan and Liberia will go on to provide pregnant women in isolated rural communities with vital and life saving medical care. Midwives need more than just training to be successful – in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we also provide the community midwives with wages, supplies and communication to help them continue saving lives.
There are no quick solutions to reducing maternal mortality. We need to ensure that midwives on the ground in crisis countries get the support they need and thousands more are trained, in order to save lives. For this year’s International Day of the Midwife, help Merlin train and support more midwives and help save lives.