Midwives: The Real Unsung Heroes

There are individuals, around the world, who are saving the lives of women, children and families every day. These are no ordinary people, in fact, many call them heroes. They travel to remote villages, through crowded urban centers, across mountains and rivers to provide life saving care to mothers and families. Creativity and strength are their “super powers” as they work with limited resources under strenuous conditions.

These super heroes have saved the lives of many of my friends. Amazing individuals, most of them women, provide loving care to babies and mothers near and dear to my heart. Who are they? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it is:

A midwife!

Midwives are saving lives. They help prevent serious complications for mothers and their babies during childbirth. Competent midwives greatly decrease the risk of both mother and child dying during birth. After childbirth, midwives continue to support mothers and their children through care, help with breastfeeding and other comprehensive support services. Their jobs look different depending on the country where they work.

Midwives must have the right skills and the best resources in order to do their jobs effectively.

With the help of a trained midwife, women’s and families’ stories around the world are different. Death is replaced with life. A midwife can provide the essential care needed to prevent harmful and preventable complications during and after birth. Yet, more than one-third of all births take place without the care of a skilled birth attendant. The 2011 State of the World’s Midwifery report, listed nine countries with a significant shortage of trained midwives or skilled birth attendants. Many of these countries have some of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates.

We need more trained midwives and we must celebrate those tirelessly working to save mothers, children and families around the world.

In the developing world, midwives need continual training and ongoing support. To ensure this support is a reality, governments, organizations, the private and health sectors and midwives, themselves, must be involved.

Last fall, I had the privilege of visiting the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was impressed by The Hamlin College of Midwives and their mission to train more midwives to serve in rural areas in Ethiopia where there is a significant need for maternal care.

I recently read an amazing story about how Jhpiego, an organization working to save the lives of women and children worldwide, is supporting a midwifery program in rural Ethiopia. They also work in other countries to support maternal and child health programs.

The Hamlin College of Midwives and Jhpiego are two positive examples of people and organizations working to support the incredible work of midwives.

On June 1st the International Confederation of Midwives will hold the 30th Triennial Congress in Prague. Over 3,000 midwives from around the world will gather to share their work, learn new best practices and celebrate each other! During the congress, the 2014 State of the World’s Midwifery report will be published. The world’s leading general medical journal The Lancet will feature a midwifery series. At the congress, special ceremonies will be held to recognize and honor midwives vital contributions. Let’s take the time and celebrate these amazing heroes.

There is beauty and hope reflected in the lives of women who are able to deliver safe and healthy babies.

Want to join the global conversation?

Follow @GirlsGlobe, @JNJGlobalHealth, @FHI360, @world_midwives and #ICMLive for coverage related to the upcoming International Confederation of Midwives, taking place in Prague,1-5 June 2014. Use the hashtag #SOWMY2014 and follow the launch of the 2014 State of the World’s Midwifery Report.

 Cover Photo Credit: UNAMID, Flicker Creative Commons