International Day of the Midwife reminds everyone that Yemeni midwives are crucial to mother and baby’s survival [Archives:2008/1154/Local News]

May 12 2008

Sarah Wolff
SANA'A, May 11 ) May 5 was the International Day of the Midwife, which recognizes the importance of midwifery throughout the world, but especially in developing countries like Yemen, where the majority of women still give birth at home rather than in a hospital.

Midwives provide health care to women and their babies during pregnancy, delivery and newborn periods, as well as help give women access to vital reproductive health services and contraception. Yemen has one of the world's highest birth rates, with each woman giving birth to approximately seven children during her lifetime.

Some 365 women in every 100,000 live births die in Yemen each year due to delivery complications, a number that could be lessened if women had better access to trained local midwives. Additionally, 76 out of every 1,000 Yemeni babies die from birthing complications, giving Yemen one of the region's worst mother and child mortality rates.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund commemorated the 17th annual International Midwives' Day with a speech by Hans Obdeijn, UNFPA's representative in Yemen.

He cited a recent study indicating that even in Sana'a governorate, there's only one midwife for every 900 women. “These figures affirm the need for such professionals,” Obdeijn said, adding, “We can save Yemeni women by getting midwives into their communities.”

Although there are currently more than 1,000 registered members of the Yemeni Midwives Association, which was established in 2004, UNFPA says there's an urgent need for 5,000 more midwives and an overall need in Yemen for 20,000 midwives.

The Yemeni-German Reproductive Health Program, which began in 2006, is attempting to address this need by training female community volunteers in midwifery. “We talk about the four A's: accessibility, affordability, acceptability and availability,” explained Dr. Ruth Hildebrandt, a reproductive health advisor working with the government's health office in Al-Mahwit governorate.

She added, “It's not enough to have midwives in Aden and Sana'a; they must be as close and as easily accessible as possible.”

Hildebrandt says that having a sufficient number of trained midwives in Yemen who are willing and able to work in small health facilities is essential to reducing maternal and neonatal mortality. She currently oversees a quality improvement program for reproductive health in Al-Mahwit and encourages midwives to gain a better understanding of their role as a key to good reproductive and family health.

UNFPA has called for more financial aid to be channeled into the reproductive health sector to help not only lessen maternal and neonatal mortality rates, but to better Yemen as a whole. “When women are healthy, families are healthy,” Obdeijn observed, “And when families are healthy, the well-being of communities and nations also improves.”