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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, the role of skilled midwives towards averting maternal and newborn deaths continues to be key. Unfortunately, in most underserved communities with high maternal and neonatal deaths, significant gaps in availability of well-trained health care workers remains.

Charmaine Sipatonyana is a midwife placed at Kaoma District Hospital in the Western Zambia, with support from UNFPA and funding from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Prior to her arrival, the hospital was experiencing significant gaps in providing quality maternal health services due to limited availability of skilled staff.

“From the time I arrived, we have not recorded any maternal deaths, and we only had a few neonatal deaths for which we are working hard to close that gap as a matter of urgency. The Hospital is engaging with the community to continuously sensitize expectant mothers on the importance of antenatal visits and close monitoring during pregnancy and postpartum period.” says Charmaine

Because of the training and support she has received as part of UNFPA support to the Province, Charmaine further narrates how this has given her confidence to execute her very sensitive role of facilitating safe deliveries and saving lives.

In 2020, through the Government of Zambia/FCDO/UN Joint Programme on Health Systems Strengthening, a total of 69 midwives were mobilised and deployed to primary healthcare facilities in Western, Luapula and Central Provinces to help reduce key gaps in health workforce shortages and ensure continuity of essential service during COVID-19 pandemic. This contributed to 14,900 health facility deliveries between October and December 2020.

The role of a midwife goes beyond facilitating safe deliveries. When adequately skilled, midwives also play a critical role in delivering all other essential sexual, reproductive, maternal, and new-born health services including providing family planning and counselling services.