By Julius N. Uma
May 7, 2011 (JUBA) – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has renewed its commitment to support midwives in South Sudan, as part of the organization’s mandate to reduce maternal mortality among women in the region, Babatunde Osotimehin, its executive director said on Friday.
- Excited south Sudanese march to commemorate the international days for midwives in Juba, May 5, 2011 (Photo credit: Roza Freriks)
Her remarks came as the semi-autonomous region joined the rest of the world to commemorate this year’s international day for midwives; an annual event that seeks to recognize and honor midwives globally for the tremendous work they play in societies.
“It’s important to commend the important work of midwives. Midwives deliver, and not only babies. They save lives and promote good health in societies as a whole. They are an essential workforce in an effective healthcare system,” she said.
UNFPA, according to its executive director, will together with more than 20 partners soon release the first ever “State of the World’s Midwifery” report in June. In addition, she added, plans are underway to jointly invest in programmes aimed at supporting midwives in the region.
As part of this initiative, however, UNFPA with its partners reportedly plan to team up with the reputable International Confederation for Midwives (ICM), joining the thousands of midwives who have been earmarked to attend the June Triennial Midwives Congress in Durban, South Africa.
Every day, 1,000 women die in pregnancy and 5,500 newborns die in the first week of life due to lack of adequate medical care. However, the current global shortage of some 350,000 professional midwives, health experts say, means that women and their newborn babies die from complications that could have been easily prevented by a health worker with the right skills, the right equipment and the right support.
- Dr. Olivia Lomoro, undersecretary in the health ministry speaks at the event, May 5, 2011 (Photo credit: Roza Freriks)
Olivia Lomoro, undersecretary in South Sudan’s health ministry also acknowledged the numerous challenges facing women in the region, saying efforts should made to support midwives in their work.
“As [a] government, we are fully aware of the enormous challenges facing the few midwives we have in the region. We shall ensure that our midwives get the necessary support since reducing maternal and infant mortality remains our key priority,” Lomoro remarked.
Ramiz Alakbarov, UNFPA’s head of office further decried the high levels of maternal mortality rates in South Sudan, which he said were the highest world over.
“Currently, South Sudan’s maternal health rates are the highest as indicators show. For every 100,000 child births, the region records over 2,054 maternal death cases which are really alarming,” Alakbarov said.
Meanwhile, UNFPA largely attributes the high maternal mortality in the region to the limited numbers of trained midwives in the region, high illiteracy rates and generally poor health services.