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Launch of 'investing in midwives' in southern Sudan helps drive towards MDGs for 2015.

With seven years to the 2015 review deadline for Millennium Development Goal (MDG) #5 for reduction of maternal mortality, Southern Sudan has posted the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world standing at a staggering 2,054 deaths for every 100,000 live births. Southern Sudan has hardly any midwifery workforce to provide skilled attendance at birth or referral to effective obstetric emergency response when needed. An analysis conducted in 2007 revealed that there were only eight professional midwives in the whole of Southern Sudan. A year later, 37 community midwives, the first ever to undergo a formal midwifery education in Southern Sudan, graduated in 2008. Currently there are only 23 other student community midwives in training. These numbers are grossly inadequate for the country to respond to the highest maternal and neonatal mortality ratios in the world. Investing in professional midwives by developing the foundations for a sustainable and effective midwifery workforce in Southern Sudan is long overdue.

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Taking the vision forward

The UNFPA/ICM initiative aims to take this vision forward and to secure the highest political commitment and strategic support for investing in professional midwifery in Southern Sudan; therefore over the threeday period 13-16 May 2009 the UNFPA Southern Sudan programme and the International Confederation of Midwives, in collaboration with the Government of Southern Sudan, launched the programme 'Investing in Midwives' under the theme 'Southern Sudan needs midwives now more than ever'.

On day one, the ICM/UNFPA/Moll GOSS Directorate of Nursing and Midwifery comprising Dr Jemima Dennis-Antwi (ICM Regional Advisor for Anglophone Africa), Dr Dragudi Buwa (Head of UNFPA in Southern Sudan), Magda Armah (RHProgram Specialist,UNFPA) and Janet Michaels (Director-General for Nursing and Midwifery-Moll) held a press conference to advocate for access to midwifery care for every pregnant woman, nursing mother and newborn in Southern Sudan. The team, led by Dr Dragudi Buwa, met separately with HE the Vice President, Lt Gen Dr Riak Machar Teny and later with Ministers, HE Dr Luka Monoja, Minister for Cabinet Affairs, HE Dr Monytueil Weijang, Minister of Health, HE Mary Kiden Kimbo, Minister for Gender, Social Welfare and Religious Affairs, HE Prof Job Dhurai, Minister of Education, and HE Madam Rebecca Garang de Mabior, Presidential Advisor on Gender and Human Rights (Immediate Past First Lady). These meetings aimed at securing, at the highest political level, the full understanding of the benefits of professionalisation of midwifery and the impact this will have on the health of the mothers and babies of Southern Sudan.

Commitment, blessing and support

The team met the President of Southern Sudan, HE Salva Kiir Mayardit for 30 minutes, briefed him on the programme and the impending launch and secured his utmost blessing and support for the programme.

Day two, the day of the launch, HE the Minister of Health flagged off a huge and colourful march from the Moll headquarters across town to the venue of the launch with full participation from the Moll GOSS staff, midwives, other health cadres, student midwives, ICM Regional Advisor, women and mothers union, the police band, motor cyclists, members of the public and media. The launch was attended and supported by the highest political representation presided over by HE the Vice President, senior Ministers and a Presidential Adviser of the Government of Southern Sudan.

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In attendance were: HE Lt Gen Dr Riak Machar Teny, Vice President Government of Southern Sudan; HE Madam Rebecca Garang de Mabior, Presidential Advisor on Gender and Human Rights; HE Dr Luka Monoja, Minister for Cabinet Affairs; HE Dr Monytueil Weijang, Minister of Health: Government of Southern Sudan; HE Mary Kiden Kimbo, Minister for Gender, Social Welfare and Religious Affairs.

The United Nations family was represented by: Mr. Adam Bouloukos, Head of UNOPS, who represented the Resident co-ordinator Ms Lise Grande; UNIFEM Head of office Md Lucie Luguga; UNICEF: Ms. Bertha Jackson, Program Officer Joint Donor Office: Mr. Bengt Herring. There were also representatives of many international and national NGOs.

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During the launch, the 1CM Regional Advisor for Anglophone Africa gave a keynote address. In the address, she outlined the background to the ICM/UNFPA partnership and the critical importance of having qualified midwives deployed to facilities accessible to communities to ensure better and quality services. She also informed the invitees about the three major outputs of the programme and sought the cooperation of government to ensure success. Key government and UN dignitaries then spoke and committed full support to the aspirations of the launch. The Vice President closed the session with the remark 'I now declare the programme officially launched in Southern Sudan'. The student midwives had the opportunity to present their requests to the highest political presence.

Strategic and collaborative efforts

As a symbol of appreciation and thanks, and for building long-term strategic and collaborative efforts to ensure continued commitment to the programme, the Vice President presented awards and gifts to individuals who have strived in their positions to make contributions to the cause of mothers and babies in Southern Sudan, and secondly, for having taken time to participate in order to give the occasion the importance and relevance it deserves.

With the assistance of HE the Adviser to the President on Gender and Human Rights, HE the Vice President received a gift, a token of appreciation for the immense political support demonstrated. The gifts had the inscription 'Southern Sudan needs midwives now more than ever' to continuously remind the dignitaries of the political support extended.

Day Three was celebrated by visits to the clinical environment in Juba Teaching Hospital and discussions were held with clinical staff on how this programme would benefit the healthcare sector and the need for them to give their utmost best to save the lives of mothers and their newborns.

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Dr Jemima-Dennis Antwi, ICM Regional Midwifery Advisor for Anglophone Africa, sets the scene in a part of the world where the need for midwives is crucial
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Author:Antwi, Jamima-Dennis
Publication:International Midwifery
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:989
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