Meet the Midwife for Life Award Winners

The Save the Children and ICM Midwife for Life Award is an international recognition of exceptional midwives. Presented this morning at the ICM Congress by Patricia Erb, CEO of Save the Children Canada, the award seeks to recognise those who show great vision and leadership in midwifery. Two new winners were announced and I had the opportunity to speak with them about their achievements.

Amina Sultani, from Afghanistan, is a midwifery specialist for the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health and Vice President of the Afghanistan Midwives Association.

Loveluck Mwasha, from Tanzania, who has been a steadfast advocate for, and a mentor to, midwives in Tanzania for many years. She’s the Vice President of the Tanzania Midwives Association and a midwifery teacher.

Girls’ Globe is at the 31st ICM Triennial Congress in Toronto, Canada. See all of the Girls’ Globe LIVE coverage here

A Superhero for Every Child

Save the Children and BAFTA award-winning film makers Don’t Panic unveiled a powerful short film to help raise global awareness of the millions of children struggling to survive in some of the poorest and most disadvantaged communities on the planet.

A staggering 17,000 children under-five are still dying every day from easily preventable causes such as malaria and diarrhea, suffering from poor or non-existent access to medicines and skilled health workers, in regions and countries where extreme poverty is widespread.

The film ‘Superheroes’ follows a group of journalists investigating multiple sightings of ‘flying figures’ – real life health workers that many children regard as superheroes. The film crew have heard the stories of these mythical figures and are on their trail, determined to be the first to capture evidence of these anonymous protagonists on camera.

Travelling across the globe, from Mexico to Kenya to India, the crew document the moving stories of young boys and girls who claim to have been saved by these elusive heroes.These are real children – not actors – but children who are supported by Save the Children’s international work and filmed in their real life settings.

The release of the innovative film coincides with Save the Children’s annual global campaign mobilisation event, Race for Survival, and the UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, on October 17th.

Thousands of children in over 50 countries will take to the streets in organised running races, to help amplify the voices of millions children living in the world’s most unforgiving environments. Race for Survival is Save the Children’s biggest global campaign event that is entirely child-powered and focussed on giving a powerful push towards attaining the MDG4 goal – to reduce child mortality by two-thirds. We’re campaigning so that every child is within reach of the quality care they deserve. We want everyone to take action by sharing the film and help spread the powerful stories of children who survive against the odds”.


When Disaster Strikes, Mothers and Newborns Are the Most Vulnerable

Originally published on The Huffington Post.

UNHCR / F. Noy
European Commission / UNHCR / F. Noy via Flickr

What would you do if disaster struck? What would be the first thing you would think about if you found out that your family had to flee from your home? What would be on your mind as you struggle to stay hidden amongst air raids and bombed streets?

If disaster struck today — if a natural disaster swept away my entire community or if internal unrest escalated to a civil war — I know that I would think about how to stay safe, how to ensure that my family and friends could stay safe and how to keep my unborn baby alive and healthy.

For expecting mothers around the globe, this happens daily. Disaster does hit and they remain pregnant, with a growing baby in their womb that needs care, rest and nutrition. Yet, when we speak of disasters and conflict, we speak about who is to blame, we talk about peace-keeping and humanitarian operations, or we debate asylum for refugees — as a burden for the receiving countries.

What we often forget to speak about are the hundreds of thousands of women and girls who still need maternal health care. We forget to speak about the women and girls who risk giving birth in refugee camps, in evacuated villages or even on the road. Yesterday marked the 500 Day milestone until the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and unfortunately, mothers and newborns — especially those in conflict and disaster — have not yet seen the sufficient progress, especially with regard to MDGs 4 and 5, related to newborn and maternal health.

This year’s State of the World’s Mothers Report, released by Save the Children, shows that mothers and children face the greatest risk of death during emergencies.

In 2014, an estimated 80 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance due to conflict, persecution or natural disasters. The majority of these people are deeply impoverished and over three-quarters are women and children. Furthermore, for those who survive, their lives have been completely altered. Save the Children estimates that the average refugee situation lasts 17 years!

The civil war in Syria is now in its 4th year. It is estimated that 1,000 women and children have been killed in conflict every month. Yet, several hundreds (if not thousands) more have died due to food shortages and the lack of medical care. Women in Syria no longer have a reliable health-care system to access essential maternal, antenatal and neonatal services. Prior to the conflict, Syria was on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals related to maternal and child health, yet the conflict threatens to set back several decades of progress.

Around the world, mothers and their babies need us. The countries with the highest rates of maternal mortality are countries with internal conflict or other emergencies. Thus, we cannot discuss maternal, newborn and child health without speaking about peace and security.

As we discuss the situation in occupied Palestine, the horrific persecution of Christians in Northern Iraq, the ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, and the heinous crimes of Boko Haram in Nigeria and beyond — we must remember the mothers and the children who are hit the hardest.

The suffering will only end once we collectively speak up, make our voices heard and in solidarity chime in with their suffering to hold our leaders accountable.

Now is the time to ensure that global and national action is taken, not only to accelerate progress to meet the Millennium Development Goals that are due in exactly 500 days, but to ensure that the goals and targets that are set up in the post-2015 agenda include specific attention to the women and children in conflict settings.

Here are a few things you can do to make a difference:

  • Join the online conversation using #MDGMomentum
  • Contact your government officials to see what your country is doing to support women and children in conflict and emergency settings
  • Read the recommendations in Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers Report
  • Read the recommendations in the Every Newborn Action Plan
  • Tell the world what you will do to #Commit2Deliver for women and children
  • Foremost, raise your voice and let others know that you will not stay silent about the women and children affected by conflict and emergencies.

Let’s Celebrate Midwives!

The International Confederation of Midwives held an awards ceremony today to honor and celebrate midwives from around the world. Save the Children, ICM, USAID and IPAS were some of the organizations who presented awards. Midwives have a unique opportunity to transform the data released in the recent State of the World’s Midwifery report into effective action for their countries. We had the opportunity to speak to some of these amazing awardees and they are outstanding examples.

Ponita Rani Raha, Bangladesh, Save the Children/ICM 2014 International Midwife of the Year Award


Pronita is a member of a small group of practicing midwives in Bangladesh. She is committed  to saving the lives of mothers and newborns, and has helped formulate the midwifery curriculum in her country. She is a role model for other midwives around the world.


Agnes Kasaigi, Uganda, Save the Children/ICM 2014 International Midwife of the Year Award

AgnesAgnes Kasaigi, a career midwife in charge of the maternity unit at Uganda’s Buwenge Hospital. She is an expert in helping revive babies who have trouble breathing at birth and a trained facilitator of the Helping Babies Breathe program.


Serra Chanachi, Malawi, USAID Fellowship Awardee

SerraSerra Chanachi is a Malawian registered nurse-midwife with experience in reproductive health, maternal and child care, and primary care.


Yvonne Delphine, Rwanda and USAID Fellowship Awardee

YvonneYvonne is a midwife in Rwanda and received the ICM/USAID Family Planning Fellowship. This offers her an opportunity to bring increased attention to the importance of family planning and the critical role that midwives play in her country.



Anita SaySay Varney, Midwife from Liberia and USAID Awardee

AnitaAnita is a midwife in Liberia and received the ICM/USAID Family Planning Fellowship. This offers her an opportunity to bring increased attention to the importance of family planning and the critical role that midwives play in her country.


Ashiat Ajibola Ganiyu, Midwife from Nigeria and USAID Awardee

AshiatAshiat is a midwife in Nigeria and received the ICM/USAID Family Planning Fellowship. This offers her an opportunity to bring increased attention to the importance of family planning and the critical role that midwives play in her country.


Helping Newborn Babies Breathe

The moment when a baby is born and screams his or her first cry is known as the Golden Moment. For many women and babies, this expected joyous moment never arrives. The World Health Organization estimates that one million babies die each year from pre-term birth complications. Asphyxia or the inability to take a breath after birth is one of the primary causes. With the proper healthcare, many of these deaths can be prevented. Fortunately, there is a life saving solution that is available to train midwives and other skilled birth attendants.

Helping Babies Breathe is an evidence-based  program that teaches and trains skilled birth attendants and midwives neonatal techniques in resource-limited areas. Helping Babies Breathe aims to ensure all babies are born with a trained birth attendant. The program utilizes a baby named NeoNatalie. NeoNatalie designed by Laerdal Global Health, enables midwives to receive life-like training on how to prevent asphyxia.

Joy Marini, Executive Director, Maternal and Child Health, for Johnson and Johnson Corporate Contributions and Frances Day-Stirk, President of International Confederation of Midwives opened today’s engaging and interactive workshop on Helping Newborn Babies Breathe.

Here are some highlights from the workshop:

How long can you hold your breath? For newborns one minute is a matter of life and death.

Prisca Ringia, a midwife from Tanzania representing Bugando Medical Center, led midwives through an interactive workshop with NeoNatalie.

Debrah Lewis, Vice President of ICM answers the question: How does the Helping Babies Breathe program help midwives save newborn lives?

Pushkar Ingale, Designer, Laerdal Global Health, India, answers the question: How can design make a difference to saving newborn lives?

Laerdal Global Health makes innovative products to improve the health of mothers and babies worldwide.

Mr. Laerdal, President of Laerdal Global displays Kangaroo Care and their breastfeeding model.

Dr. Susan Niermeyer encourages all midwives to learn about the Helping Babies Breathe program.


Healthy Mothers and Midwives: Agents of Positive Change

Maternal mortality is a growing global concern. The United Nations Millennium Development Goal 5, aims to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters and achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015. The United Nations reports that while the level of maternal mortality worldwide has declined by 47% over the past two decades, the maternal mortality ratio in developing regions remains 15 times higher than in developed regions.

According to the World Health Organization in 2013, 289,000 women died following pregnancy and childbirth, with most of these preventable deaths occurring in low-resource settings. Many of these women lack access to a skilled midwife and emergency obstetric care. In countries where maternal mortality rates are high, mothers and children often also lack access to proper nutrition, water, sanitation, and education.

Access to trained midwives and proper care for women during childbirth must be leveraged to ensure mothers and their babies are healthy.

The positive outcomes associated with improved maternal health, catalyzed by midwives and skilled birth attendants, are unrivaled. Midwives provide a bedrock of support for women and families during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. These amazing women and men play a crucial role in maintaining and improving maternal health, facilitating childbirth, and empowering women to make informed decisions about their healthcare. The benefits of midwifery and maternal health contribute to economies – healthier mothers achieve greater productivity in their jobs, which positively drives economic growth. In addition, when mothers gain knowledge about maternal health, the availability of health services and the importance of proper nutrition and hygiene, their children are healthier and child mortality is reduced.

Unless a country has healthy mothers, it will be unable to break the perpetual cycles of poverty and put an end to the marginalized status of women and girls.

Girls’ Globe’s featured organizations including Save the Children, Mujeres Aliadas A.CCleanBirth and the Edna Adan Hospital Foundation are dedicated to improving maternal health through education and health-centered solutions.

Save the Children’s efforts to fortify community-based health systems in over 20 countries has equipped local women and midwives in Afghanistan with the health training needed to offer life saving services to mothers, children and families. Mujeres Aliadas advances the lives of women in Mexico in a two-fold way – by giving  them  reproductive health and educational services based on professional midwifery models and developing a network that encourages women to advocate for their health rights.

CleanBirth strives to prevent the deaths of mothers and babies in Laos by providing clean birth kits, training nurses, midwives, and providing funding for training village volunteers who educate their community about safe births. The Edna Adan Hospital Foundation supports and advocates for the Edna Adan Hospital in Somaliland. The Edna Adan Hospital Foundation’s goal is to provide women in Somaliland the opportunity for healthy pregnancies and safe childbirth, through increasing women’s access to skilled public health professionals, revamping healthcare facilities, educating midwives, and ending the practice of female genital mutilation.

The results and impact of the work of our featured organizations is far reaching. When education, midwifery training, healthcare and economic advancement are properly harnessed the future of improving maternal health in developing countries becomes brighter.

Cover Photo Credit: Stephen von Malortie