Tanzanian Midwives Association’s (TAMA) Dr Sebalda Leshabari received special international recognition (Midwives for All Award) alongside several midwives who were celebrated nationally on May 5th 2016, the International Day of the Midwife (IDM). This year’s theme is ‘Mothers and Newborns: the Heart of Midwifery.’
Outstanding performance in research in midwifery, service provision family planning, antenatal care, delivery, post-delivery and newborn care are only some of the reasons for the high level and public recognition of the midwives in the picture. Midwives educated to international standards can provide 87% of the essential care needed for women and newborns.
Midwives save lives
According to TAMA, with reference to studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a qualified midwife can provide the best partnership for a woman during pregnancy and childbirth. It has been shown that women who have access to a midwife experience less preterm births, less interventions during labour, shorter hospital stays, breastfeed more often and longer, use contraception and space births more often. Extending this partnership to all pregnant women would save millions of lives each year.
If all women delivered with a midwife in a facility capable of providing basic emergency care, it is estimated that 56% of maternal, foetal, and newborn deaths could be prevented. This is why every woman deserves access to the high quality, skilled care provided by an educated and qualified midwife.
What does the community think of midwives?
IDM 2016 has provided a space for reflection, inspiration, affirmation and planning for the future of midwifery in saving more lives. TAMA demonstrated superb leadership among stakeholders in, not only celebrating the profession, but also looking into the significance of midwifery profession to the mother, her family, the community and the nation. Sadly of late an unpleasant image of the professionals is emerging in Tanzania as a result of incidences of negligence, poor communication and general lack of respectful maternity care. Accusations of foul language and general mistreatment that lead to deaths are rampant.
Below is an excerpt from a recent media report as reported by the online version of Mwanahalisi newspaper:
Susan Anatory who went to deliver at the Nyamagana-Budimba District Hospital and then her twin babies to died, is the reason Mariam Mkakule, the hospital nurse was beaten up, writes Moses Mseti.
Such stories are many these days thanks to the journalists who cover them fearlessly.
Through the IDM platform TAMA has expressed concern regarding the increasing public complaints and the incidences. TAMA believes that no fully-trained and competent midwife would mistreat a woman. However it is also possible that 'Kwenye msafara wa mamba na kenge wapo' a Swahili saying which loosely translates as 'where there is a group of crocodiles it is common to find alligators as well', says Feddy Mwanga, the President of TAMA repeatedly whenever she was asked to talk about the issue of pregnant women.
We have conducted prompt investigations, working with relevant authorities and bodies to ensure that any wrongdoing is dealt with severely.
Midwives-Journalists partnership to advocate for midwifery
However more is needed to be done since there is rarely feedback to the community on what steps were taken following an incident, especially through the media it was originally reported. Possibly reports on actions taken are not proactively shared with the media and the journalists do not go back for follow up stories. This lack of actions and overall absence of positive reporting on midwives contributes to the bad image of a profession that is responsible to safely bringing into the world generations of our nation.
At a special media workshop before IDM, a journalist working for a prominent radio station in Dar es Salaam looked straight at the facilitator and frankly stated;
I had come to hate midwives because of the lack of empathy and professionalism they showed when my wife was pregnant.
Then later the very journalist went on to thank Martha Rimoy, TAMA coordinator for explaining in detail the role of midwives and how they help support save deliveries if they work efficiently.
Informed journalists are the best advocates for midwifery work, and therefore best partners to advocate to ensure all groups in societies support safe deliveries in the hands of these skilled health workers so that Tanzania stops losing a mother every hour and over a hundred babies each day.
There is a call worldwide that:
- Countries must continue to increase investments in the education of midwives and growing the midwifery workforce. It is the only way to ensure that there are enough qualified midwives to care for all women and newborns.
- Currently only 22% of countries have enough midwives to provide the needed care. Investing in midwifery education could yield a 16-fold return on investment in terms of lives saved and costs of caesarean sections avoided.
- Every year, approximately 289,000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. And every year, more than 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Most of these deaths could be prevented.
- Nearly all newborn and maternal deaths (98% and 99% respectively) occur in developing countries where pregnant women and newborn babies lack access to health care services – before, during, and after delivery
The workshop that included participants from national TV and radio stations, Swahili and English newspapers as well as blogs was concluded by an agreement for TAMA to have regular meetings with journalists, particularly including those who received the training, to update them with information and as well as giving them opportunity to clarify matters.
IDM 2016 was nationally celebrated at Mnazi Mmoja Grounds in Dar es Salaam where the Minister of Health, Social Welfare, Elderly, Gender and Children was the guest of honour.