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International day of the midwife, 5 May 2009: the world needs midwives, now more than ever.



The Australian College of Midwives Incorporated (ACMI) announced that this year the theme for International Midwives Day (IMD) would be 'Aboriginal Midwives for Aboriginal Women'. The ACMI has developed a scholarship trust fund for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to study to become midwives. All proceeds from merchandise sold on International Midwives Day (including hand-crafted quilts with traditional designs such as those pictured above) will be donated to the trust fund to support these women to reduce the costs of undertaking their studies.

Also in Australia, the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) celebrated International Midwives' Day (IMD) this year by acknowledging the important role midwives play in improving maternal health in Australia and throughout the world.

Ged Kearney, ANF Federal Secretary, said that International Midwives Day focuses attention towards the contribution and commitment shown by midwives to the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies.

"Every year Australia's midwives expertly assist mothers to safely birth their babies, caring for mothers, their newborn and families with professional kindness and skill. The World Health Organisation recognises midwives as the most appropriate health professionals to safely manage a mother's maternal care and the birth of their babies. Their incredible contribution should be applauded by government, the media and the community."

The ANF pointed out that although the contribution of Australian midwives is well recognised, particularly following the recommendations in the federal government's maternity services review, Australian midwives still need action to enable mothers and babies to receive the full benefits of their professional skills.

"Australia has some wonderful examples of midwifery services that are collaborative and use a multidisciplinary approach to maternity care; these models of care must be available to all mothers and their babies ... particularly in rural and remote areas. Australia needs the skills of midwives now more than ever."

More about the Australian College of Midwives is at www.midwives, org. au and the Australian Nursing Federation at


In Canada, midwives celebrated an announcement from the Saskatoon Health Region that 21 babies have been born since February when midwives' services in this province were first paid for by health insurance. About half of those babies were born at home in the care of one of four legislated midwives.

Saskatchewan is the seventh of the eight Canadian provinces that have a registered midwife programme to cover maternity care through public health insurance.

A study conducted by Statistics Canada in 2007 for the Public Health Agency of Canada found women who used a midwife as their primary caregiver rated their birthing experience as very positive 71% of the time, as opposed to 53% of the time when cared for by doctors or nurses alone. Supporters say midwives not only help ease a mother's concerns, they also relieve doctors of the workload for uncomplicated births.

Cathy Chicoine, who was the first mother to deliver with the aid of legislated midwives, said midwifery is about 'wholeness, community and well-being.'



The Ethiopian Nurse Midwives Association (ENMA) is the professional association representing midwives and the profession of midwifery in Ethiopia, since its establishment in 1992. Currently ENMA has over 500 member midwives throughout the country and it is a member of the International Confederation of Midwives. Its goal is the reduction of maternal, infant and child morbidity and mortality in Ethiopia through provision of quality care.

One of the activities of ENMA is celebrating IDM at the country level to update midwives and discuss strategies to strengthen the association for the realisation of its goal and objectives. Therefore this year we celebrated the 17th annual conference of IDM at the country level by the theme of 'The world needs midwives NOW more than ever'.

On May 05, 2009, at the Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa, ENMA organised and conducted the day in collaboration with UNFPA and EPHA (Ethiopian Public Health Association). The event included the launch of its country UNFPA/ICM midwifery programme which is focused on the strengthening of the national association and capacity building of midwives. In all 284 midwives from all regions of the country and around 50 invited guests participated.

After a welcoming address from ENMA president Sister Aster Berhe, keynote addresses were presented by UNFPA, UNICEF & WHO representatives followed by official opening speech offered by the federal ministry of health (FMOH) representative.

Dr Jemima-Dennis Antwi, ICM Regional Midwifery Advisor-Anglophone Africa, amplified the theme of the day by giving different examples and experiences of African countries, in relation to the midwifery programme, she explained why the midwifery programme is being initiated and which countries are enrolled in the programme.



Wednesday May 6, 2009 was a historic day for Guyana and midwives when a 'Midwives Association' was launched and the International Day of the Midwife celebrated. The venue was the Guyana Nurses Association Hall situated in Lacytown, Georgetown.

Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America, shares borders with the following countries: Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil. To its north is the Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of 751,223 (2002 data) and there are approximately 400 midwives in both the public and private health sectors who provide midwifery services in hospitals and communities.

The main speaker at the launch event was Dr Bheri Ramsarran, Hon. Minister within the Ministry of Health, who praised the Guyana Nurses Association for this undertaking. Other speakers were Dr Janice Woolford, Director MCH Services and Ms Patrice La Flettr, Assistant Representative UNFPA (Guyana). Dr Woolford, a registered nurse/midwife and medical doctor, reminisced on the days when midwives would work beyond the call of duty and reminded the midwives present of their importance. Ms. La Fleur congratulated the midwives and shared with the gathering the message for International Day of the Midwife by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director.

Following the launch was a symposium on Maternal Health. Presenters were: Dr Abdulla Amin, a registered nurse/midwife and medical doctor, Obstetric Unit, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation; Dr Mario Aguilar, Sexual and Reproductive Health Adviser for UNFPA Caribbean; June Cato, Obstetric Unit, GPHC; Ms Veronica Douglas, Health Visitor. The moderator was Ms Marjorie Arjune, Senior Departmental Supervisor, GPHC.

The Midwives Association will work towards the strengthening of midwifery services and maternal and child health care by supporting measures that will improve the standards of practice, education, regulation and personal development of the midwife in Guyana.

Above article written by Grace Bond, Guyana Midwives Association, forwarded by Debrah Lewis, ICM Board



The IDM in Lao PDR was celebrated on 11 May 2009, at the National Mother and Child Hospital (MCH). The event was supported by UNFPA Lao PDR in collaboration with WHO, UNICEF and other partners. Over 50 participants from relevant government and international organisations attended the celebration. In addition congratulatory letters were read out from the ICM Asia Pacific Representative and from a number of neighbouring countries in the Asia Pacific region. This event draws attention to the roles of midwives in keeping mothers and babies safe and to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 5 for reducing the rate of mothers dying in childbirth by three-quarters by 2015.

The reason for celebrating this year is that, recognising the important role midwives play, Laos Ministry of Health will open a new programme later in the year to pepare specialist midwives, initially to work close to women in the community. Next year it aims to open another programme for existing nurses to be upgraded to hospitalbased midwives. The recent National Assessment of Skilled Birth Attendance calls for a re-introduction of specialist midwifery as it was found that many nurses lacked adequate midwifery skills due to limited hands-on practice (in turn due to low utilisation of services--only 18% of women have a health care provider at birth.). To thank those who did practice midwifery in the past, floral tributes were given to a number of the retired midwives.

Della R Sherratt, International Skilled Birth Attendance Coordinator, Lao PDR, UNFPA Country Office,


In Nepal one woman dies every four hours from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The Ministry of Health and Population developed and endorsed the National Skilled Birth Attendants policy in July 2006 as a part of the overall strategy to reduce the maternal death by 75%. The percentage of deliveries by skilled birth attendants has doubled from 9% in 1996 to 19% in 2006, as per the National Demographic and Health Survey, 2006. The implementation of the policy started in 2007; with support from UNFPA and others, the systematic training of skilled birth attendants started and to date altogether 900 health service providers have been trained.

On the IDM 2009, UNFPA pledged its support and urges the government, international partners, NGOs and private institutions to continue the joint efforts to increase the number of deliveries assisted by skilled birth attendants.

Sierra Leone


The aims of the day in Sierra Leone were to sensitise midwives on the existence of the association, introduce the association to the Sierra Leonean community and create awareness about high maternal and infant mortality rates.

Media coverage included radio and television broadcasts by the President of the Taskforce, Mrs Elizabeth Decker. In her address Mrs Decker admonished the midwives to get involved in the rebirth process of the Sierra Leone Midwives Association and pleaded for renewed political commitment to the course of the midwifery profession.

There was market place and street sensitisation including an awareness-raising visit to Tombo Fishing and Waterloo communities.

On 5 May, after the street sensitisation, several midwives had audience with the Minister of Health and Sanitation who pledged his support to the association.

The Sierra Leone Midwives Association Task Force is working hard to put back the association on the map. Currently the Task Force members are busy making contacts--midwife to midwife--to bring more midwives on board, following which a general meeting is called to share with every one what going on.

The month of May has lots of maternal and child health activities going on. There is a national event called 'Mami en Pikin Welbodi week' which is intended to sensitise the wider public on maternal and child health interventions.

The Sierra Leone Midwives Association says "this is just the beginning"!.

Solomon Islands

Gizo Hospital hosted a big function to mark IDM on Tuesday 5 May. Western Province's health director Dr Gunter Kittel said they have so far trained 24 midwives and are dedicated to have more of them trained.

Director of Nursing Charles Sigoto, being the first male midwife of the Solomon Islands, addressed in his key speech the uttermost importance of the work of the midwives. "Safe motherhood, high quality antenatal and postnatal care will remain a priority in our Primary Health Care," Mr Sigoto said. He also stressed the point that it is intended to post midwives not only at the hospital and Area Health Centers but also at the Rural Health Clinic level.

The matron Numali Tutuo welcomed all participants. The midwife representative for Western Province Nena Tokefono addressed the importance of the celebration.

The function also coincided with a reproductive health workshop, aimed at addressing adolescents about the present growing concerns about sexual health. Dr Kittel said the workshop was headed by Serah Ben from the Ministry of Health


Speakers during the commemoration of IDM, which took place on 5 May at Bethel Court, highlighted the urgent need for more skilled midwives to be deployed into the hard-to-reach rural areas in Swaziland in order for the country's high maternal and infant mortality rates to be reduced..

The global theme for the IDM 2009, a day commemorated annually on May 5, was 'The world needs midwives, now more than ever, to achieve universal access to sexual reproductive health services to attain Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6'.

The guest speaker Deputy Director of Health Services, Rejoice Nkambule, represented by the Deputy Chief Nursing Officer Mavis Nxumalo, noted that the high maternal mortality rate is a result of challenges including non-functional low level health facilities and an unreliable public transport system to tertiary hospitals: "Additionally, we have limited health facilities that provide maternal health care services and skewed distribution in skilled practitioners towards the urban areas thus preventing a significant number of women in the rural areas from accessing sexual reproductive health services," she said.

WHO representative Edward Maganu who was also represented by the organisation's Family Health Planning Officer, Dudu Dlamini, emphasised the need for improved access to maternity care services: "There is need to ensure that every woman has access to quality maternity care and that it is as close to home as possible. This suggests an urgent need for a maternity care strategy to provide the right mix and distribution of skilled maternity care providers to provide the service", she pointed out.

The event was attended by nurse midwives from all the regional hospitals and some clinics and health centres, officials from the ministry of health and its departments as well as officials from government partners including the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
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Author:Bond, Grace; Lewis, Debrah
Publication:International Midwifery
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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