Midwives and others around the world celebrated the International Day on May 5

‘The world needs midwives—now more than ever’—International Day of the Midwife 2006: midwives and others around the world celebrated the International Day on May 5

In Afghanistan

On May 1,250 members of the Afghan Midwives Association (AMA) assembled in Kabul to celebrate their first anniversary. The second annual congress of the Afghan Midwives Association was opened by Dr Nadera H. Burhani, RH Deputy Minister, MOPH, who spoke to the midwives about their important role in reducing Afghanistan’s high maternal mortality rate. Pashtoon Azfar, the president, spoke about the outstanding achievements of the year. The association has been officially accepted as a member of the International Confederation of Midwives and registered with the Afghan Ministry of Justice. Over 18 provincial AMA groups have been formed and 650 midwives have joined the association. Afghan midwives have travelled to midwifery meetings in Australia and to the USA where Pashtoon Azfar received an award for her leadership of the AMA.

In recognition of the support that the association has received during the year from USAID, the Ministry of Public Health and many NGOs, awards were presented to Jim Griffin, Senior Health Advisor, USAID; Jeff Smith, Safe Motherhood Advisor, REACH; Minister Sayed M. Amin Fatimi, MOPH; midwife Sheena Currie, Midwifery Advisor, REACH; midwife Addie Koster, Midwifery Course Coordinator, Takhar; and midwife Anne Richter from the American College of Nurse-Midwives. The association was grateful for the donations received from USAID and UNFPA to the support of the congress.

Throughout the two days, sessions were conducted on prevention of post-partum hemorrhage; achieving success as a new midwife; increasing respect for midwifery; and promoting financial sustainability for the association.

On the last day of the congress, midwife Rona Azamyar, Course Co-ordinator in Badhakshan, spoke to the midwives about the International Day of the Midwife which is celebrated throughout the world on May 5. This year’s theme, The World Needs’ Midwives–Now More than Ever is especially relevant in Afghanistan where only 14% of births are attended by skilled birth attendants. The midwives planned events throughout the country to mark the day, including a competition to design a poster, won by the midwives from Wardak (winning poster below).

In Burundi

Dans la nuit du 30 avril 2006, les sages-femmes du Burundi n’ avaient pas crus a leurs oreilles quand son excellence le President de la republique du Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza annonca publiquement la gratuite de tous les actes et soins lies a l’ accouchement et soins des enfants de 0 a 5 ans dans tous les hopitaux et centre de sante publics sur toute l’ etendue de la republique du Burundi. Cette mesure aussi importante vient a point nomme car le taux d’accouchement dans les hopitaux et centre de sante n’ etait pas satisfaisant si l’ on se refere au nombre des femmes presentes aux consultations prenatales.

Pour temoigner leur soutien total a la mesure du chef de l’ etat. Mme Goreth (sage-femme) a remis au noms des sages-femmes du Burundi un cadeau a une maman qui venait juste d’accoucher dans une maternite de Rutana (sud-est du Burundi) le vendredi 05 mai 2006, quelques minutes avant la visite des membres du comite d’initiative pour la mise en place d’une association des sages-femmes du Burundi. Dans son discours de circonstance, Mme Goreth, sage-femme membre du comite d’initiative, a rappele aux sages-femmes et autres professionnels de sante que cette mesure du President ne pourra etre effective que si tous les sages-femmes que nous sommes, restons fideles aux code et ethiques de la deontologie de notre profession. Nous devons doubler d’effort pour faire face a ce defi et ainsi la reussite de cette mesure au Burundi pourra servir d’exemple a d ‘autres pays pour des mamans et des enfants en bonne sante et pour des maris heureux, a t-elle conclu.

La profession de sage-femme commence a s’ installer au Burundi lentement mais surement car la seule ecole qui forme les sages-femmes est a sa troisieme promotion. Nous sommes pour le slogan <>.

On the night of April 30 2006, midwives in Burundi could hardly believe their ears when they heard his Excellency the President of the Republic of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza publicly announce that all services linked to delivery and care of infants aged 0-5 years would be free of charge at all hospitals and health centres throughout the country. This important measure comes at a critical point given the fact that the rate of delivery in hospitals or medical centres (attended by professional caregivers) was far below that hoped for as relates to the number of women attending prenatal consultations.

In order to show their support for this new measure to the head of state, Mme Goreth (a midwife) presented in the name of all the midwives of Burundi a gift to a mother who had just given birth in a maternity clinic in Rutana (in the South-East of Burundi) on Friday 5 May 2006, just a few minutes before the visit of members of an initiative committee for establishing an association of midwives in Burundi. In her discourse, Mme Goreth, midwife of the initiative committee, reminded midwives and other health professionals that the president’s measure can only be put into effect if all of Burundi’s midwives remain faithful to the code of ethics of our profession. Midwives have to double their efforts, she said, in order to meet the challenge and ensure the success of this measure in order to serve as an example for other countries in improving the health and outcomes of women, their children and their families. The midwifery profession is slowly but surely starting to establish itself firmly in Burundi with a programme for midwives now in its third year. We proudly want to declare to the world that we stand firmly behind the 2006 International Day of the Midwife slogan: ‘The world needs midwives–now more than ever’.

NONDHO OMBENNY Jess-Alfred: nondho@yahoo.fr

In Dubai, United Arab Emirates

ICM Director Judi Brown is seen below at the IDM celebrations at the Al Wasl Maternity Hospital in Dubai. Judi, whose current role is Director of Nursing & Midwifery Development for the Dubai Government, is with Dr Abdulah AlKhayat, Hospital Director, at the midwifery displays in the hospital foyer. Mrs Ravi Kumar, acting Director of Nursing, is on Judi’s left.

In Ethiopia

The International Day of the Midwife was celebrated here on May 24. The events included an award presentation and a training workshop on the use of misoprostol in prevention of post-partum haemorrhage. The theme ‘The World needs Midwives: now more than ever!’ was presented by Dr Tesfanesh Belay, head of the Family Health Division at the Ministry of Health.

Sister Kiros Kebede received an Award of Recognition Certificate for the achievements of the Ethiopian Nurse Midwives Association and a Gold Medal Award for 40 years of service presented by the ‘worldwide dedicated lady’, Dr. Catherine Hamlin, the Director of Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Dr Hamlin spoke warmly of the work of Sr Kebede whom she has known for many years.

The training workshop, organised with partners UNFPA and Venture Strategies for health and development, was attended by 300 participants, including midwives, school directors, NGO representatives, MoH officials and staff from the Fistula Hospital. Among speeches from distinguished guests was that of Dr Olusegun A Babaniyi of WHO, who said, ‘Motherhood is one of the happiest moments in a woman’s life but it can also prove life threatening for the mother and the newborn if there is no skilled care during complications of pregnancy, childbirth or the immediate postnatal period…. midwives are one of the key health [professions] with distinguished track records; unfortunately, their services are often not well recorded or told. They are the health cadres that serve the rural people who have little access to health care. They are the unsung heroines of the health system that save the lives of the mothers and the newborns. The theme of “The World Needs Midwives: now more than ever” carries a most appropriate and timely message.’

Dr Babaniyi explained that among the indicators used to track changes in maternal mortality levels, ‘proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel’ is the most relevant due to the correlation between skilled care at delivery and declining maternal mortality. The availability of midwifery services is, therefore, a key indicator for the MDG 5 of improving maternal health and reducing maternal mortality.

He said there is evidence to show that investing in midwives is wise; they have proved to be the key health providers that remain close to the communities: therefore they are optimally placed to serve as a link between mothers and the health system. Moreover, because of the high esteem they have earned over the years midwives have proved to be effective as promoters of healthy practices, as advocates for women’s health and as agents for community mobilisation.

Dr Babaniyi concluded: ‘In order to improve the availability of skilled attendants at birth, importance must be given to the training of midwives, to regulations and incentives to improve their working conditions, and provide them with opportunities to improve quality of services. We believe that much can be done through concerted efforts through partnership that will improve and maintain services with a high quality standard.”

Sister Kiros Kebede. Director, ENMA: enma@ethionet.et

In Malawi

About 70 Malawian midwives from all corners of Malawi came to capital city Lilongwe to celebrate the International Day of the Midwife on May 5, 2006. They met at Kamuzu College of Nursing, the country’s only University College offering a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and a University Certificate in Midwifery. Events in the morning included presentations from various stakeholders and in the afternoon, the midwives’ Annual General Meeting. The theme for the day, ‘The world needs midwives–now more than ever’, was an ICM theme but also befitting for the Malawian scenario in the face of the country’s critical shortage of midwives.

The day’s activities were organised and co-ordinated by the Association of Malawian Midwives (AMAMI) with financial assistance from the UNFPA, ably represented by Dorothy Lazaro. The guest of honour was the Secretary for Health, Dr Wesley Sangala. His presence was a big boost to the midwives as it demonstrated government’s commitment to midwives and the midwifery profession. Disclosing that the official maternal mortality rate for Malawi is 984 per 100,000, he emphasised that government will redouble its efforts to train more midwives to meet the ever increasing demand.

Other stakeholders represented were the Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi; the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood; the National Nurses Association of Malawi; and Banja La Mtsogolo, a reproductive health organisation. Speakers from these organisations all concurred with the day’s theme that Malawi as a country needs more midwives now than ever before in order to offer quality and comprehensive midwifery services.

At the AMAMI AGM, midwives had an opportunity to share the joys and sorrows associated with their work. They reminded one another about the need to be dedicated to duty despite the critical staff shortage, poor remuneration package and harsh working environment. Midwives requested the Association to take up with government and other employers:

* Need for recognition for the midwife in remuneration (in Malawi a nurse and a nurse-midwife receive the same salary; the midwifery qualification is not recognised

* Improve the working environment so that it is safe for clients as well as midwives themselves.

Midwives elected the new executive. Lennie Kamwendo and Keith Lipato retained their posts of President and Publicity Secretary respectively; new members include Mrs Matola, secretary, and Mr Ndala, Treasurer.

The function was covered by television as well as the two major daily newspapers, the Nation and the Daily Times.

In Mali

La neuvieme edition de la journee de l’ Association des Sages-femmes du Mali (ASFM) s’est tenue les 6 et 7 2006 mai 2006 au Centre International des Conferences de Bamako. Le theme retenu par la confederation inter-nationale des sages-femmes est: <>. Au Mali, il a ete choisi de parler du <>.

La ceremonie d’ouverture etait placee sous la presidence de Madame le ministre de la sante, les objectifs de la journee:

* Informer les sages-femmes sur l’ importance de la planification familiale dans la reduction de la mortalite maternelle et neonatale

* Partager la feuille de route de l’Union Africaine avec les sages-femmes

* Informer les sages-femmes sur les OMD

* Mettre en place un plan de lutte contre les hemorragies du post-partum (HPP)

* Ameliorer les connaissances des sages-femmes dans la prise en charge du paludisme pendant la grossesse

* Expliquer le role important que doivent jouer les sages-femmes dans la PTME du VIH

Ont pris part a cette rencontre plus de 400 sages-femmes et autres participants. Deux allocutions ont marque la ceremonie d’ouverture. Prenant la premiere parole, la presidente de l’ ASFM, apres avoir remercie les parrains et les participants a cette 9[sup.eme] edition, a rappele le theme de la journee. Elle loua les efforts du departement de la sante. Parmi les actions engagees par le departement, on retient:

* La gratuite de la cesarienne

* La dotation de la plupart des centres de sante surtout les zones difficiles en materiel et equipement pour faire faces aux urgences obstetricales

* Les dispositions en cours pour accorder des mesures incitatives pour le personnel de sante surtout ceux travaillant dans les zones difficiles

* La participation de l’ ASFM a l’ atelier sur les HPP

S’ adressant a ses paires, la presidente de l’ ASFM disait que: Notre engagement et notre determination a participer a la reduction de la mortalite maternelle et neonatale ne se concretisent que lorsque nous adoptons des comportements favorables face a notre groupe cible, la femme et son enfant qui constituent les couches les plus vulnerables.

Prenant ensuite la parole, Dr Traore Fatoumatta Nafo le Ministre de la sante estima qu ‘elle apprecia les efforts louables que les sages-femmes ont entrepris ces dernieres annees dans le cadre de la reduction de la mortalite maternelle et neonatale. Elle exhorta les sages-femmes a plus de determination et d’engagement.

The Association of Midwives of Mall (ASFM) celebrated the International Day of the Midwife on May 6-7, 2006 at the International Conference Centre in Bamako. The theme set by the International Confederation of Midwives was ‘The world needs midwives–now more than ever’ but in Mali it was decided to focus upon ‘The role of the midwife in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)’.

The opening ceremony was held under the auspices of the Minister of Health. The objectives of the day were:

* To inform midwives about the importance of family planning in the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality

* To present the African Union “road map” to midwives

* To inform midwives about the objectives of the MDGs

* To put a plan in place to combat deaths from PPH

* To improve knowledge on managing malaria in pregnancy

* To explain the role played by midwives in PMTCT of HIV

More than 400 midwives and other participants took part in the meeting. Two addresses were given during the opening ceremony. The first was from the president of the ASFM who, having thanked the participants and sponsors of the event, turned to the theme of the day. She applauded the efforts of the Department of Health. Among the activities undertaken by the department, she identified

* Provision of Caesarean section free of charge

* Supply of material and equipment for use in emergency obstetric care to health centres, especially in remote areas

* The current arrangements to offer incentive measures to health personnel working in remote areas

* ASFM participation in the PPH workshop held in Uganda.

Addressing her peers, the president said: ‘Our commitment and determination to contribute to the reduction of maternal and infant mortality will only materialise when we have the right attitude towards our target group–those women and children who are most vulnerable in childbirth.’

Next to take the podium, Dr Traore Fatoumatta Nafo, Minister of Health, stated that she appreciated the noble efforts that had been made by midwives in recent years to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. She urged all midwives to become even more determined and committed.

Mme Fatoumata Dicko, President, ASFM: fsdicko@yahoo.fr

In New Zealand

Owing to their time zone, midwives in New Zealand are the first in the world to greet the day on May 5–Auckland midwives celebrated appropriately with a ‘Sunrise march’ at 6.45 am followed by hot coffee and croissants! Elsewhere in New Zealand there were a diversity of creative ways to celebrate:

* appearance on TVNZ’s “Breakfast” programme

* release of helium balloons

* a ‘sausage sizzle’

* a pamper and nurture day for local midwives

* wearing of T-shirts with “Midwives helping 57,000 people out in NZ every year”

* morning tea with information and product stalls

* picnic and bouncy castle for midwives and families

In a ‘global message’ sent on the day, Karen Guilliland of the New Zealand College of Midwives (NZCOM) congratulated NZ women on the recent rise in rates of exclusively breastfed babies and said ‘Women birthing in New Zealand have access to a maternity system that is … leading the way in safe, family friendly and professional maternity care.’

NZCOM also announced on May 5 that the government had agreed to fund a first-year graduates support programme. Karen said, ‘[This] programme will bring the professional support of newly graduated midwives to a similar level for others in the health sector. The new funding is in line with the Government’s primary heath strategy where good health starts in the home and community. Midwifery as a community based service is an essential chain in primary health.’

Karen Guilliland, CEO, NZCOM: nzcom@clear.net.nz

In the Philippines

Two reports were received from the very energetic midwives in the Philippines. The Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines (IMAP) celebrated with a series of activities:

* a Congress for Pregnant Mothers in Olongapo City where over 50 women were given health education about the importance of prenatal and postnatal care and breastfeeding.

* May 5 saw a scientific seminar on ‘Why the World needs Midwives’ with 300 midwives attending as well as special guest Kathleen Fritsch of WHO Western Pacific region.

* A presentation was given on new immunisation guidelines–especially on Hepa B at birth

* the Midwives of Region IV discussed: ‘Legal aspects regarding midwives’ functions and job description’.

Patricia Gomez: President, IMPAP: imapinc@mozcom.com

ICM was also grateful to receive a separate report with an account of activities from the Philippine League of Government Midvives and Private Midwives.

In Portugal

ICM Board member Vitor Varela organised the 9th Portuguese Meeting of Midwives on May 4-5, which included a celebration of the International Day of the Midwife. On the screen in the background is picture of the city of Povoa do Varzim in the north of Portugal and the words ‘O mundo precisa de parteiras–hoje mais do que nunca’ = ‘The World needs midwives–now more than ever’

Vitor Varela: apeo.portugal@netcabo.pt

In Sweden

Greetings came from the northern part of Sweden with the news: Friday May 5 was a day with sunshine in Omskoldsvik, a little town situated 600 km north of Stockholm. During the winter we had prepared the programme for this day. All midwives in the county were invited to celebrate with us.

We wanted to inform people in the local area about midwifery and give them a better idea what our profession is about. People associate midwifery work with birth but we wanted to show the wide field that we are working with in Sweden. The local press published an interview with a group of midwives, including a midwifery student and midwives working in delivery, at a youth reception centre and in gynaecological reception.

In collaboration with health information staff at our hospital we arranged a small exhibition in the central hall. Three figures were dressed as a teenager, a pregnant woman and a lady. We wanted to show the visitors that the midwife in her profession is a central person for women at all ages.

Midwives from our clinic met the people, from all ages, women and men, who stopped for short talks and information during the day. Topics like contraception, infertility, pregnancy, abortion and climacteric problems were discussed. Visitors were offered refreshments such as small cheese sticks and cucumber sticks through the goodwill of the hospital.

The hospital library had chosen good books to inspire people to read more about women, wide topics from poetry to up-to-date science about women. In the city centre the public library had done the same for their visitors.

In a nearby room we had a power point presentation running during the day; the theme was “The world needs midwives–now more than ever.”

Information about midwifery training was sent to us from the University of Umea. Students from the nursing school of Mid Sweden university, in Ornskoldsvik, were invited to participate during the day.

At noontime an open midwifery lecture was given by Ingegerd Hildingsson, midwife PhD, in the restaurant of the hospital. Everyone who wanted to participate was invited for lunch. Ingegerd gave us an up-to-date summary of actual midwifery research. Her lecture was much appreciated!

In the evening the midwives showed up in a small Italian restaurant in the city centre for dinner. We had a nice evening and we had many good laughs, as midwives always have when they get together! In the middle of the night we slowly walked back home again, and the night was not dark, the summer was on its way up to us in the north. And we were happy about the day, about our work and our friendship.

Ann-Christin Isaksson, Ornskoldsvik, Sweden

In Trinidad & Tobago

The Trinidad & Tobago Association of Midwives (TTAM) celebrated both the International Day of the Midwife and its own 10th Anniversary year with activities from May 1-5.

The week began with an interfaith service on May 1 which recognised the many faiths represented in our society. The homily was given by a midwife, Erroline Warner Mason, who stimulated midwives to consider faithfully the privilege given to them of being a part of bringing life into this world. She urged then to be impartial in their care and continue to celebrate the Almighty in all that we do. The entertainment of drum logy and solos was all presented by midwives and/or their children, and this was followed by a luncheon.

On May 2, 4 and 5, TTAM members conducted half-day workshops in antenatal clinics in the major hospitals. These workshops sought to enlighten women and families about: TTAM, the services offered and the role of the midwife in the lives of childbearing women and in the family and society. In some clinics a ‘mother of the day’ was presented with a basket of baby products.

The highlight of the week was a one-day seminar on May 3 at a venue along the scenic coastline. The President of TTAM, Franka Andrews, gave a historic overview of the Association and its many achievements over the 10 years. One of the primary causes for celebration was the selection of Debbie Lewis, a founding member and past president of TTAM, as ICM Regional Representative for The Americas. Debbie is the first Caribbean woman to hold this position, and she delivered the feature address on this day. Her presentation focused on trends in midwifery worldwide; the importance of midwives understanding their roles; and encouragement of midwives to keep abreast of evolving changes and be ready to face professional challenges.

The educational session that followed focused on HIV and AIDS, as mother-to-child transmission is a growing concern in our society, and the issue of stigmatisation still exists and increases the ills which people living with HIV and AIDS face daily.

It was also a time of fun as throughout the day many prizes were given out celebrating midwives. These included: the midwife who attended the birth of the first baby born on IDM; midwife of the day; student midwife of the day; and the highlight–a Dutch auction.

The activities attracted a lot of media attention with articles in the daily newspapers; requests from the radio and television stations for interviews; and many phone calls from the public. It was a tremendously successful week.

Dionne Lewis, Executive Member TTAM, and Debrah Lewis, ICM Board member: dlewistnt@yahoo.com

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

ICM is very grateful to its partner UNFPA for support and participation in the International Day of the Midwife 2006.

A May 5 press release from UNFPA called for urgent support to midwives, especially in developing countries, to help save the lives of 5 million women by 2015. Evidence shows that midwives are vital to preventing the estimated 529,000 maternal deaths each year. In countries as diverse as Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Tunisia, investments in training, recruiting and retaining midwives, as well as in emergency obstetric care, have reduced maternal death rates. The lives and health of many millions more would be saved with greater investments in midwives.

“Addressing the shortage of midwives through education, training and deployment to underserved areas would bring us much closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of improving maternal health,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA’s Executive Director.

“A strong midwifery profession is the key to achieving safer childbirth, and all women should have access to a midwife,” said Kathy Herschderfer, the Secretary-General of the ICM. “Midwives form the bridge between communities and facilities. They transcend the levels of care within health systems, and are essential to the continuum of care during the childbearing cycle.”

UNFPA and ICM are working together to strengthen midwifery capacity worldwide, to promote professionalisation of midwifery practice, to improve national midwifery standards and to help countries scale up community-based midwifery practice.

For more information see www.unfpa.org

World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO is an organisation with a long track record of working with ICM and joining in midwifery celebrations, as is shown by the frequent mention of WHO guests and speakers in the country reports above.

On the International Day of the Midwife in 2006, WHO issued a statement about its work together with the ICM to promote midwives as the prototype for the skilled birth attendant, stressing ‘Midwives are crucial for the attainment of the MDG goals to reduce maternal and child mortality’.

To further honour the day, WHO and ICM published a report, Promoting the Health of Mothers and Newborns during Birth and the Postnatal Period, of the pre-congress collaborative workshop held in Brisbane, Australia in July 2005. The report chronicles key strategies identified at the workshop on current midwifery initiatives and programmes:

* promoting the normal progress of labour and safe birth,

* prevention of postpartum haemorrhage

* advocacy campaigns to promote the health and well-being of mothers and newborns in their countries.

“Investing in human capital such as midwives for childbirth is the wisest investment that we can ever make, to ensure sustainability, ownership, fulfilment, and consistently high results” said Joy Phumaphi, Assistant Director-General, Family and Community Health, WHO.

For more information see www.who.int

COPYRIGHT 2006 International Confederation of Midwives

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