Malawi Needs More Midwives Amidst Acute Shortage
This article originally appeared in Nyasa Times.
By Zawadi Chilunga
There is an acute shortage of midwives in health facilities across the country with a total of only 3233 midwives against the required 23 637, a recent study by White Ribbon Alliance for safe motherhood revealed.
Professor Maurine Chirwa of Prime Health Consulting which carried out the study said serving midwives were below World Health Organization (WHO) recommended standards.
“The recommended WHO standard is one midwife for every one hundred seventy-five (175) childbearing women. However, our survey has found that for a district like Mangochi with a population of 803,602, which has 103 midwives, is one midwife for every 7801 childbearing women which are not adequate to provide quality midwifery services,” she said.
According to the report, the analysis considered that midwifery services usually benefit women in childbearing age and based on that, further computation of ratios was done.
Likoma Island, with a population of 10,000 people, has the lowest ratio with one midwife for every 803 childbearing women though it is also below the required WHO standard.
The survey also found that at some facilities, there are some midwives who are as old as 76 years old, though the average age of midwives was 35.
The findings further show that the shortages increase the workload for the midwives, with an average of 58.2 hours per week per midwife against 40 normal working hours per week.
On a positive note, the study found that more midwives are working in the rural areas and are more motivated to do their work as they felt they were helping the community.
The survey was conducted in all districts in the country in collaboration with District Nursing Officers (DNO), who validated the figures. It has technical support from White Ribbon Alliance’s Global Secretariat in Washington, DC and financial support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Ministry of Health spokesman confirmed the report, saying it was presented to them in October 2016.
Local White Ribbon Alliance Board Chairperson Lennie Adeline Kamwendo called the findings shocking.
Kamwendo called for an increase in the number of midwives to up to 20,000 to improve service delivery and also reduce the burden on existing midwives and hence improve their working conditions.
She further asked for financial and non-financial incentives for the midwives like establishing positions for midwives among others.
Malawi has hard a serious shortage of health workers for years.