It is difficult to believe how much Haiti is suffering. Not only was its president assassinated a little over a month ago, but a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit last weekend with a death toll now of over 1400. And, if that is not enough, a tropical storm is quickly barreling its way towards the island where mudslides will inevitably cause additional deaths, injuries, and property damage. This is all amid an interim government that has not gotten its bearings after President
I had the privilege of visiting Haiti once. That was five years after the devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed 200,000 and injured 300,000. Even after five years I could clearly see where buildings had not been rebuilt and rubble was still bulldozed into corners across Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.
Then, I went to see the work of Midwives for Haiti whose dedication to quality maternity care in the poorest country in the western hemisphere I admire greatly. While Midwives for Haiti was not immediately affected by the earthquake, there will undoubtedly be an increased need for its help in the region because as its Executive Director, Jane Drichta, said in her most recent newsletter, “Haiti is a small nation and what affects one, affects all.”
It is no surprise that the world needs more health workers. In fact, even though there are currently 22 million nurses and 2 million midwives globally there is an urgent need for 18 million more health workers in order to reach universal health care coverage by 2030 according to the World Health Organization.
There is a particular need for 9 million nurses and midwives as they are critical components to a robust health system and are often on the front lines of general and critical care including:
Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases
Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of noncommunicable diseases
Sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, and maternal and newborn health care, including immunization and breastfeeding support.
Giving birth is a significant life event that should aim for a healthy baby and mother. There are growing calls for women to give birth in their preferred birth positions. But this requires midwives to be trained in a way that enables them to respect the choices that women make. The Conversation Africa’s health editor Joy Wanja Muraya asked Lydia Mwanzia to explain why women have the right to make choices, and the important role played by midwives.
Every year just over 500,000 women die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth across the world. Another 20 million experience severe complications. But many of these complications are entirely avoidable – including obstructed and protracted labour and one of its side-effects, obstetric fistula.
An obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal between the vagina and the rectum or between the vagina and the bladder that is largely caused by obstructed and prolonged labour. This can occur when the mother’s pelvis is too small or the baby is too large.
In sub-Saharan Africa for every 100,000 deliveries there are about 124 women who suffer an obstetric fistula in a rural area. Obstetric fistulas predominantly happen when women do not have access to quality emergency obstetric-care services. Antenatal care could help to identify potential problems early but will not have an impact if there is no skilled surgeon to assist with the labour.
When I visit low- and middle-income countries like Ethiopia, Zambia, the Philippines, and Tanzania, I am always heartened by the number of mothers I see breastfeeding their babies. Breastfeeding for so many of these mothers is the best and most affordable way for them to nourish their babies. While every mother does not breastfeed to be sure, the sheer number of mothers I see breastfeeding at local clinics, while walking with their baby strapped to them or taking a break on a city bench, gives me hope.
From time to time I like to look back into history and share photos I find in the Library of Congress archives. I have done that previously with breastfeeding, newborn health, and tuberculosis. Today, I am sharing photographs I found of rural midwives in the south.
The sunny, steaming hot morning when I visited L’Hôpital Sainte-Thérèse in Hinche, Haiti, the maternity unit was overflowing with busy midwives checking charts and administering care, nurses-in-training in white and yellow uniforms obtaining requisite clinical hours, as well as a few obstetricians checking on patients. Of course, there were expectant mothers, mothers who had just given birth, and those who were being prepped to deliver their babies. Husbands and other family members milled about slowly, but deliberately, bringing food and water to their loved ones, or just sat on benches and waited.
In each of the maternity units – antenatal, postpartum, and labor and delivery – there was a bed for every woman. No expectant mother laid on the ground waiting for space. In fact, I even saw some empty beds. That is not always the case I was told. Some times of the month are busier than others, but each mother can be accommodated.
Some expectant mothers – many with swollen feet and ankles – walked around slowly outdoors in the sunlight angling for some type of momentary relief from the constant wave of contractions. Others laid in bed with worried eyes anticipating the incumbent pain they faced. When I visited labor and delivery, one mother’s screams were piercing and she wasn’t even pushing yet. Another woman was calm, smiled, and gave me a quick wave as I walked by despite her contractions. Midwives were attending to their care – calmly and respectfully.
This week I am traveling around Haiti reporting on global health issues that affect women and children. In fact, I am writing this post in the back of a SUV with my fixer and translator headed south of Port-au-Prince to visit Social Good Moms’ partner, Midwives for Haiti.
In the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere there are still many challenges that persist in both maternal and child health in Haiti. While malaria cases are relatively in check across the nation there were 15 confirmed cases of Dengue fever in Deschappelles over the past two weeks — all children!
Addis Ababa- In Ethiopia there are 4.9 million pregnancies each year of which 84% take place in rural areas. Here in Ethiopia, where the vast majority of women deliver at home, only 32% of maternal, newborn and child health needs are being met by midwives according to the newly released State of Midwifery Report. That is troubling for a country that is making noticeable strides to save … Continue reading How Ethiopia is Scaling Midwifery to Save More Mothers, Newborns
Neonatalie Newborn Resuscitation model in a baby cot, this was one of the models donated by UNFPA to 12 midwifery training schools | UNFPA/Evelyn Kiapi Have you been following the 30th International Confederation of Midwives Triennial Congress? Throughout my travels to low-and middle-income countries and reporting on maternal, newborn, and child health midwives prove time and time again how important they are to the health, wellness, … Continue reading 24 Compelling Mobile Photos from #ICMLive
Trainee Midwives demonstrating the childbirth process using the Advanced Child birth simulator Anatomical Model donated by UNFPA at the handover ceremony at Public Health Nurses College. UNFPA/Evelyn Kiapi 3000 midwives have gathered in Prague for the 30th International Confederation of Midwives Triennial Congress. I have been reading the twitter stream closely ahead of my upcoming trip to Ethiopia next week where I will lead a delegation … Continue reading 11 Key Tweets from #ICMLive
I am just back from spending over two weeks in Ethiopia. At every health clinic and hospital I visited in both rural and urban areas I had the great privilege of chatting with new and seasoned midwives about their life-saving work. Midwives play a pivotal role in maternal and newborn health in Ethiopia and around the world. Why? Because midwives have been trained to save lives. In low-resource … Continue reading How You Can Celebrate International Day of the Midwife
Jhpiego, a nonprofit organization that works in developing countries to train health professionals in modern reproductive health care, especially family planning, is celebrating women who save mothers’ lives around the world. Be sure to join us and Jhpiego, USAID’s global Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program MCHIP, John Snow Institute, Women Deliver, and PSI for a twitter chat on how providing mothers and their babies with a healthy start to life makes … Continue reading Jhpiego Salutes Women Who Save Mothers’ Lives