Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Midwives: Delivering Amidst Climate Crises


Every year, on this day, we pause to celebrate the
invaluable contributions of midwives worldwide. Their
unwavering commitment to safeguarding lives and promoting
the well-being of women and newborns is nothing short of
heroic.

Indispensable in routine healthcare,
midwives are evermore important during
emergencies.

Amidst increasingly frequent natural
disasters across Asia and the Pacific, midwives stand as
lifelines, ensuring safe childbirth and maternal well-being
for millions of women. In the face of adversity, they ensure
health services are more accessible and can quickly reach
women in need. In low resource settings, midwives as
frontline workers often serve as the only source of help for
a woman to give birth safely.

Consider the story of
Shakila, a midwife serving in a remote village in Bangladesh
prone to major flooding. Despite the looming threat of
disasters, Shakila remains steadfast in her mission to help
mothers and babies in her community. When non-stop rain
caused flooding in her village, the maternity ward,
pharmacy, and storage room were submerged by water. She
still continued to deliver babies, without electricity, even
supporting emergency cesarean sections as needed with the
doctors on call. During disasters, Shakila is a beacon of
hope, offering critical assistance to women in labor despite
the chaos and destruction. Through her resilience and
resourcefulness, she embodies the spirit of midwifery,
serving in the most challenging of
circumstances.

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Wading through water or the rubble of
earthquakes, midwives save lives. Standing by the side of a
woman before, during, and after childbirth, midwives offer
critical support and provide life-saving care during
complicated deliveries. They can help prevent fistula by
identifying and managing prolonged or obstructed labor
promptly, and promoting timely access to emergency obstetric
care when needed.

Midwives also provide essential
sexual and reproductive health services and information,
including family planning, and often serve as the sole
healthcare provider for women and girls in hard-to-reach
communities. In fact, in any given setting, skilled midwives
can provide 90 per cent of all essential sexual,
reproductive, maternal and newborn health
services.

Recognizing the lifesaving role
of midwives is not just a moral imperative; research
suggests that facilitating universal access to midwives is a
strategic investment that represents the most effective and
cost-efficient solution to end preventable maternal and
newborn deaths.

Yet, there is a global
shortage of close to 1 million midwives, including a
shortage of 200,000 midwives in the Asia and Pacific region
– a reflection of the systemic undervaluation of their
critical role in healthcare.

With 66,000 women dying
in pregnancy or childbirth every year across Asia and the
Pacific, the need for more trained and qualified midwives is
crucial. By closing the deficit in the number of midwives,
the world could prevent two thirds of maternal and newborn
deaths, saving millions of lives, especially in the face of
climate disasters.

The evidence is clear. Investing in
midwifery is not just a matter of healthcare; it is a
cornerstone of climate and disaster adaptation and
resilience. By strengthening midwifery education, training,
and support systems, governments and stakeholders can
bolster the resilience of communities facing the impacts of
climate change. Equipped with the knowledge and skills to
navigate emergencies, midwives can ensure continuity of care
even in the most challenging of circumstances, saving lives
and mitigating the impact of disasters on maternal and
newborn health.

Midwives also serve as
advocates for climate justice, highlighting the
disproportionate impact of environmental degradation on
women and girls. By amplifying the voices of midwives, we
can advance gender-responsive approaches to climate
adaptation and resilience, ensuring that the needs and
rights of women are central to our efforts to build a
sustainable future.

As we confront the
realities of a changing climate, let us pay tribute to the
pivotal role of midwives in safeguarding the health and
well-being of communities across Asia and the Pacific, and
beyond. On this International Day of Midwives, we urge for
increased recognition of their contribution to society and
greater investments in their education, deployment and
empowerment as we celebrate their achievements. For in the
hands of midwives lies the power to build a more resilient,
equitable, and sustainable future for
all.

(Opinion-Editorial by Mr. Pio Smith, UNFPA
Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific on the
International Day of the Midwife
2024)

© Scoop Media

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