More Midwives, Better Supported
Complications during childbirth can quickly become life threatening for both mothers and newborns. For this reason, access to a midwife or other skilled health professional during childbirth is essential for saving the lives of mothers and newborns worldwide. Despite the vital role that skilled care plays during childbirth, only 63% of women in low-income countries deliver with a skilled professional, and in some countries that figure is as low as one third. This is due in part to a global shortfall of 350,000 midwives, and health systems that lack the capacity to support midwives in delivering quality care.
The White Ribbon Alliance envisions a world with a sufficient number of health workers, particularly midwives, that are better supported to ensure skilled maternity care for all women and their newborns. In order to achieve this key advocacy objective, WRA supports national level campaigns in persuading decision makers to take specific national actions to improve the numbers, distribution, working conditions and competency of health workers, with a specific focus on midwives.
Successful Campaigning On Midwives
In Uganda, the WRA led a focused district level campaign , which resulted in a triple increase in the numbers of health workers deployed and put on the payroll (among them were 24 enrolled midwives, 18 nursing officers and 58 enrolled comprehensive nurses). The District Health Officer in Kabale made it clear that the increased recruitment of health workers (especially midwives) in the district was due to this campaign, which included petitions to MPs and local leaders ensuring that health workers were on the payroll.
WRA also encourages communities and midwives to engage in advocacy. With the support of USAID’s Health Policy Project, White Ribbon Alliance Tanzania (WRATZ) is currently promoting measures to improve the working conditions and status of midwives. This March, WRATZ conducted a public hearing on safe motherhood in Peramiho, Songea. Nearly 1000 women and men gathered to discuss the negative impact of high workloads and poor compensation on the quality of care, how to support midwifery as a profession, and how to improve relationships with midwives. Results of these discussions will be shared with district authority and members of parliament to encourage sustained action at the local and central level.
At the global level, WRA works in partnership to raise the profile of health workers, to identify shortfalls in the health workforce, and to hold governments accountable to commitments that have already been made. Part of this work includes engaging health workers as advocates, so that midwives can support midwives worldwide. For example, on this year’s International Day of the Midwife on May 5th we have teamed up with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) to develop an advocacy pack to guide midwives to take action—available shortly on both WRA and ICM’s websites. The pack includes tips on organizing and publicizing a successful event, as well as key facts and messaging to raise awareness, celebrate the achievements of midwives, and motivate policymakers to implement change. The White Ribbon Alliance is also looking forward to working with ICM in an advocacy training workshop for midwives in the African region in May.
How You Can Take Action
In advance of International Day of the Midwife on May 5, there are many ways that you can support midwives worldwide. You can use the materials above to organize an event in your community. You can also contact your government representative to express your support for initiatives that improve the numbers, training, working conditions and competency of midwives. When advocating for better support for midwives, stories highlighting their importance are a particularly powerful tool. You can also these share stories on Twitter (#healthworkers) or Facebook.
Additionally, fundraising is a vital way to support midwives. Recently, the Midwives Association of Washington State raised $1000 for WRA’s work advocating for midwives, through donations gathered at their Safe Motherhood Walk, and proceeds from selling t-shirts featuring artwork by Nikki McClure.
Click here to learn more about how you can support midwives and save lives through April’s Action of the Month.