OUTLOOK — By Maryam Khalfan — A big salutation to all midwives on the occasion of this prestigious day in recognition of their efforts on promoting good health of pregnant women and for making childbirth safe. The day, which is annually marked on 5 May, is indeed a significant occasion for societies to value the work of midwives. Without doubt, the risks, the midwives take on in an attempt to save the lives of mothers and babies during child birth is undeniable.
The presence of a midwife at birth can make a difference between life and death. Having a skilled professional at birth protects the life of the mother and child with timely intervention when the situation can still be controlled.
Indeed, the continuous endeavour and boundless support the midwives provide without discrimination of ethnicity, faith and colour is certainly commendable. The joy and smile they bring on the lives of mothers and their families when they overcome the challenges of childbirth is extraordinary. Their contribution to promote the well being of women and to prevent postpartum haemorrhage — a condition which can lead to death of women if bleeding is not controlled after birth, is all the more praiseworthy.
According to UNFPA, “the right to health is a basic human right that every woman should enjoy. Yet, every day, almost 1000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth. Every year, 8 million women suffer serious pregnancy-related illnesses and disabilities, such as obstetric fistula, and 2 million babies don’t survive the first 24 hours of their lives. One of the main causes for these tragedies is lack of access to maternity services, including the care of midwives or others with midwifery skills at childbirth".
The occasion, which is being commemorated under the slogan ‘Investing in Midwifery Pays’, is indeed a strong message to governments and private health care providers to invest in this segment for sustainable health. For instance, if we are to learn from our own country's experience, for many years, Oman relied on foreign manpower in this field. The development and improvement on the quality of maternal health services provided to women in this country has gained the praise of international organisations related with women and child health. Besides, a lot is being done on further advancements of the midwifery services in the county.
However, if the nation is to be self-reliant in the future, the need of investment in Human Capital such as midwives is the wisest step forward that we can ever make, to ensure sustainability, ownership, fulfilment, and consistently high results.
The need of investing in Omani midwives and to encourage them to advance through career development is mandatory, if the Sultanate is to be self-reliant on local manpower. Investing on midwives is also mandatory to improve the maternal health, reduce child mortality and combat HIV. Addressing this shortage is also critical to achieving universal access to reproductive health in the future and to meet the UN millennium development goals by the year 2015.
For instance, in the Sultanate, the country has traditionally relied on foreign-trained expatriate midwives to provide midwifery services. But, in recent years only a handful of Omani midwives have begun taking on the ambition through career development.
In honour of this day, the international community should equally acknowledge the tasks of the international agencies like the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), along with the UN agencies like the UNFPA and World Health Organisation (WHO) and a range of other international partners, which are committed to addressing maternal mortality and morbidity through greater access to essential midwifery care worldwide, particularly in developing countries where 90 per cent of maternal deaths occur.
Special gratitude also go to the UNFPA for its tasks of supporting nations all over the world in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.