Shashank Shrestha/Save the Children

Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!

Originally published on HealtyNewbornNetwork.org

Midwife Rita helped deliver Rupa and Rajkumar’s first-born daughter this year at the newly constructed Taruka health facility in rural Nepal, a facility Save the Children helped rebuild after the devastating 2015 earthquake. The proximity of a health post and availability of a skilled auxiliary nurse midwife helped save the newborn’s life. Even though Rupa had visited the health post often to ensure her pregnancy was proceeding, she was still anxious as her delivery approached. She had heard awful stories of women losing their lives during childbirth. But by delivering in a health facility with a skilled, well-equipped, and respectful midwife, both mom and baby survived childbirth and the days following without complication.

Rita’s story is just one of many we should celebrate today on International Day of the Midwife. However, there are other stories that won’t end as happily. Today, nearly 830 women will needlessly die giving birth, more than 7,200 babies will not survive childbirth or the last three months of pregnancy, and another 7,300 babies will die within the first hours and days after birth. That adds up to 303,000 women and 5.3 million infants every year whose lives are lost. Nearly all of these deaths could be prevented if high-quality services were available to every woman and baby everywhere.

And while 99 percent of these deaths happen in developing countries, rich countries like the United States are not exempt. Thousands of families suffer the tragedy of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity every year in developed countries.

This week, US celebrity Jimmy Kimmel shared his emotional story about his son’s heart defect on national television and expressed praise and appreciation for the midwives who supported his family throughout the process. Jimmy said, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” This statement is no less true in low-income countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. And for marginalized populations, like those who live in hard-to-reach areas, and are victims of conflict and humanitarian crises.

No mother – anywhere – should have to risk her life or that of her baby by going through childbirth without the expert care of a midwife or other skilled birth attendant. Yet, globally, one in four women gives birth without such care. And 2.2 million give birth all alone. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2015 there would be a shortage of more than 3.5 million health workers – including a million midwives. This means that mothers and children have no one to diagnose and treat their illnesses, provide immunizations, or help them stay healthy.

The theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife is Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life! Partnerships are central to midwifery. Midwives partner with women, families, and communities to provide lifesaving healthcare to mothers and babies, from before pregnancy to the first months after birth. They collaborate with doctors and facility staff to devise treatment plans and deliver high-quality, respectful care. They serve in government ministries and other decisionmaking bodies to make policy and funding decisions that ensure midwives have the resources they need. And they teach, mentor, and supervise to ensure midwives both practice what they know and learn new skills.

Ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths requires more qualified midwives, more empowered midwives, better resourced midwives, and more respect for midwives. How can we strengthen these partnerships? For one, we can listen to midwives’ voices. The upcoming Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives is another opportunity to engage with midwives to strengthen support of their work. I am making it a priority this week and in the coming weeks to listen to the voices of midwives.

If you are a midwife or want to recognize a midwife for her partnership for life, please write to the Healthy Newborn Network with your story and we will be sure to share it.

A Mom’s Best Or Worst Day

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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Every day, thousands of women celebrate one of life’s most amazing experiences — becoming a mother. But every 30 seconds a mother’s first moments with her baby are cut short, on the very day she gives birth.

 

Until now, we didn’t know how common this heartbreaking experience is in the United States and around the world. But Save the Children’s new report shows that one million babies die the day they are born.

 

State of the World’s Mothers 2013: Surviving the First Day also shows that today we have the evidence and cost-effective tools to save up to three quarters of newborn babies, without intensive care.

Read Article

Doh!-ville – Don’t forget the children, G8

Nora O'Connell Nora O’Connell, Save the Children Senior Director of Development Policy and Advocacy

Deauville, France

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


The beautiful seaside village of Deauville, France, where the G8 leaders just held their annual Summit, is a long way from the villages of Malawi – in more ways than one.

The big story at the summit was the Arab spring – the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere – and how global leaders can support the people of those countries in creating lasting peace, stability and prosperity.

The G8's package of help for the Middle East is timely and important – but key pledges to the developing world still need to be delivered. We don't want an Arab Spring to be followed by a barren summer in Africa.

In Malawi, there is a different kind of uprising happening, but there the government is leading the charge. It is a movement calling for the end of needless deaths of thousands of mothers and children, mostly from preventable and treatable causes.

Malawi is symbolic of the transformation that can happen when a government, even of a poor country, commits itself to a goal and develops sounds policies, programs and partnerships to achieve it. They’ve prioritized proven approaches, like training community health workers, giving vaccines and fighting malnutrition – things that can help prevent and treat leading killers of children, such as diarrhea and pneumonia. And Malawi has achieved results – from 1990 to 2009, under-5 mortality rate has dropped by half.

What does this have to do with the G8? Because even committed countries like Malawi need donor support to stay on track, save lives, and create a brighter future for their countries.

At their previous two summits, G8 leaders made important promises to help developing countries that are struggling with maternal and child health and hunger. In Deauville, the G8 affirmed those commitments, but they need to turn that pledge into action by tackling the shortfall of 3.5 million health workers in the poorest countries. Training just one of these could help deliver lifesaving treatments to hundreds or even thousands of children and save many lives.

The U.S. will have two key moments in the next few months to deliver on its promises. The first is on the 2012 spending bills. Congress has to resist the temptation to sacrifice these proven programs in the name of cutting the federal deficit. Programs to fight global poverty are about half of 1 percent of the federal budget, so cuts to these programs won’t help families in either Michigan or Malawi.

The second moment will come in September in New York when health workers will be top of the agenda at a U.N. summit. In its accountability report, the G8 acknowledged how these workers are critical to health progress. Now the US should come to the U.N. with its plan to help meet the shortfall of 3.5 million health workers and empower those who are already working to save lives.

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 Meet local health workers and the children they help to survive.