May 5th every year, midwives around the world mark the International Day of Midwives. This day is aimed at rallying support and recognition of the noble task of this cadre of health providers in delivering midwifery services towards promoting the health of mothers and infants.
This day calls for some reflection on the increasing demand of these services on a small number of midwives, many of whom are overworked and many times, underpaid. Yet, under enabling environment, midwives contribute immensely not only to delivering babies and ensuring safety of mothers and their newborns, but also in deepening the knowledge on better care of mothers and child health.
The role of midwives is indeed invaluable. From keeping mothers and communities informed about the valuable benefits of breastfeeding, the importance of good nutrition and hygiene, and supporting prompt medical health check-ups during the pre- and post-pregnancy period, and reproductive health in general, midwives provide one of the strongest foundations for a healthy start for both mothers and their newborns.
The Tanzania Association of Midwives (TAMA) was established in October 1992 and supports midwives to provide high quality care, as well as enhance their recognition, visibility and valuable contribution. TAMA conducts week-long activities in collaboration with other key actors such as the Ministry of Health, Gender, Community Development, Elderly and Children to raise public awareness of critical midwifery-related issues, but more so, to render services such as breast cancer, HIV/AID testing, nutrition education, reproductive health, and family planning. Such activities are normally implemented across all its branches in the country.
Investing in increasing the number of skilled midwives will go a long way in ensuring that more and more women in Tanzania deliver in health facilities. Current data (TDHS 2015) shows that about 53% of expectant mothers seek medical services at health facilities, while the remaining 47% deliver at home with the help of traditional birth attendants.
Adequate midwives would also contribute to increased acceptance and uptake of family planning, one of the key preventive interventions to the country’s high maternal deaths of 546 women (in the reproductive age) in every 100,000 live births.
The 2017 International Day of Midwives theme of midwives, mothers and families are partners for life! recognizes that by working in partnership with women and their families, midwives can support them to make better decisions about what they need to have a safe and fulfilling birth. Let us join hands and support this partnership by creating an enabling environment for midwives across our country.