Press Release

Midwives Leading the Way with Quality Care in Rural Zambia

5 May 2018

As a midwife, I know I have been trained to provide quality care to as many women, adolescents, children and new-born babies as possible in the communities. I work in a remote and poor area, and I often have to borrow a motorbike or pay for a canoe ride to get to hard to reach locations to provide midwifery services. This has saved many women from dying due to pregnancy related complications. I feel proud when I make a difference as a midwife!

WESTERN PROVINCE, ZAMBIA – Theophilous Minyoi is an enrolled midwife in Sikongo District of Western Province. He is the only enrolled midwife working within the District and serving a rural population of over 52,000. Theophilous is therefore tasked with providing required midwifery services in all 13 health facilities in Sikongo. In addition to being a midwife, Theophilous also serves as the Maternal and Child Health Coordinator for the District.

Every day, Theo (as he is popularly known), provides life-saving information and delivers services to women of reproductive age, young people, children and new-born babies, to mention a few. He often encounters diverse challenges in the call of duty, key amongst which are limited power supply, inadequate availability of essential medical equipment, medicines and supplies, as well as limited operational costs for transportation for outreach services and transfer of pregnant women with complications to referral health centers and hospitals.

Yet, Theo remains optimistic in the discharge of his duties. The enormity of his task had also led Theo to think of innovative ways to identify possible solutions to address the challenges within the health system. Recounting his experience, he says: “As a midwife, I know I have been trained to provide quality care to as many women, adolescents, children and new-born babies as possible in the communities. I work in a remote and poor area, and I often have to borrow a motorbike or pay for a canoe ride to get to hard to reach locations to provide midwifery services. This has saved many women from dying due to pregnancy related complications. I feel proud when I make a difference as a midwife”.

“Before the District received additional health staff, I used to provide family planning services and worked with Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAGs) to raise awareness on important household decisions and practices that encourage women to use antenatal services on time and deliver in health facilities. However, with recent recruitments in 2017, I have been joined by nurses and environmental health officers, which allows me to focus on providing quality midwifery services” Theo says.

MAKING EVERY CHILDBIRTH SAFE

Theophilous is among over 3,000 midwives who are leading the way in providing quality health care and saving the lives of thousands of women, adolescent girls, young people, children and infants across Zambia.

Midwives often do more than deliver babies. When trained and supported, midwives can provide more than 85% of all integrated health services, including sexual reproductive health services – such as caring for mothers throughout pregnancy, providing skilled attendance at childbirth and newborn care, post-natal care, provision of modern contraceptives, management of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, among others.

Over the past decade, Zambia has recorded significant progress in reducing maternal mortality rates, from 726 per 100,000 live births in 2002 to 398 per 100,000 live births in 2014. Ensuring the availability of skilled midwifery personnel has been critical in securing this achievement, as Zambia increased the number of births assisted by a skilled attendant from 50% in 1992 to 64% in 2014. This underscores the evidence that when deployed in adequate numbers, trained midwives can avert approximately two thirds of preventable maternal deaths.

However, more needs to be done to sustain these gains in Zambia, including meeting the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended threshold of 4.2 midwives per 1,000 population, as well as strengthening midwifery services to help achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Zambia – as articulated in Zambia’s National Nursing and Midwifery Strategic Plan (2017-2021) and the Midwifery 2030 vision.

As Zambia joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Midwife under the theme “Midwives Leading the Way with Quality Care” UNFPA – the United Nations Reproductive Health and Rights Agency - reaffirms its commitment to collaborate with the Government and people of Zambia, cooperating partners, civil society and other non-state actors, and indeed the entire midwifery workforce, in addressing critical bottlenecks that continue to constrain effective midwifery services within the health system.

UNFPA also applauds all midwives in Zambia, who work beyond the call of duty to ensure no woman dies giving life, most often in difficult circumstances, hard to reach locations and with limited resources.