At Pakistan midwives' conference, Health Minister says they are 'backbone of the healthcare system': Imtiaz Kamal and Clara Pasha of the Midwifery Association of Pakistan have sent a report of the first national midwifery conference in the history of the country.[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
Imtiaz Kamal, President of MAP, is seen with the Pakistan Minister of Health at the opening ceremony of the national conference. The two-day conference was held in mid-December 2008 at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, in the capital city Islamabad, in collaboration with the TACMIL (Technical Assistance for Capacity Building in Midwifery Information and Logistics) health project of the US Agency for International Development.
The theme was 'Midwives Can Save Lives' and the event was inaugurated by the Minister of State for Health, Mohammad Afzal Sindhu. Terming midwives as 'the torch bearers in providing health services and the backbone of the healthcare system', Sindhu said 'the dignity of this centuries' old profession is acknowledged around the globe'. Midwives play a very special role in the achievement of national health targets. He attributed the country's high maternal and infant mortality rates to the non-availability of skilled midwives. Pakistan currently has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, which stands at 268 per 100,000 live births.
An effective and enhanced role of the services of midwives in simple cases of childbirth could be an important contributing factor to bring about significant and sustained reduction in maternal and infant mortality. The Minister observed that globally many countries have reduced their maternal mortality rate with the active support of trained midwives.
Referring to the measures taken to support midwifery, the state minister said the government has started training a new cadre of community midwifery in 12 districts of the country, along with other training to provide midwifery services at the doorsteps of the people. 'Every community midwife will have to serve a population of 5,000 in the catchment area,' he said.
Sindhu said the government is committed to reformation of the nursing and midwifery sectors as a priority. He appreciated the contributions of all national and international stakeholders who are jointly working for the uplift of midwifery in Pakistan, and expressed confidence that the initiation of midwifery education would prove to be a step forward in overcoming the existing gaps impeding enhancement of midwifery and referral services in the country.
A congratulatory message from the President of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) was read out. The keynote address from an obstetrician emphasised the important role of midwives in saving lives of mothers and neonates. Among the speakers were heads of donor funded projects working to promote midwifery as a profession in Pakistan. The speakers emphasised the need to create midwifery posts in all teaching and district hospitals of Pakistan. There was also a feeling expressed that the Maternal Neonatal and Child Health programme needed to be supported and managed by trained professionals.
The conference was very well attended throughout. There were three technical sessions. In addition seven of the 14 midwives who had attended the ICM Congress in Glasgow in June 2008, and had returned highly motivated, shared their experiences with the audience.
The agenda included a half-day general meeting of the Midwifery Association of Pakistan (MAP) in which members took active part. Reports of MAP's activities, projects and finances were presented. The opening of new local chapters was discussed. MAP's contributions to midwifery education were shared. The importance of being a part of the international community of midwives, through ICM, was highlighted.
The objective of the conference was to advocate for midwifery and to sensitise the midwives to take pride in their profession, recognise their own identity and become aware of their important role in saving lives of mothers and their newborns, and this was achieved.
The conference's success in the country was demonstrated by the fact that, since it took place, three local chapters of MAP have been formed in different provinces of Pakistan and two more will be formed shortly.
This article is based upon the report from the President and Vice-President of MAP with additions from news items in the Pakistan Observer and The News International.