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Midwives: Defenders of women’s rights

This year’s International Day of the Midwife was commemorated on 5 May in Simiyu Region, with the theme “Midwives: Defenders of Women’s Rights” (“Wakunga ni Watetezi wa haki za Wanawake”). Midwives from across Simiyu Region joined government and development partners to celebrate their role in Tanzania as the protectors of women’s rights.

Midwives are the main caregivers for women and their newborns during pregnancy, labour, childbirth and in the post-delivery period. Yet their role as defenders of women’s rights starts well before pregnancy and goes beyond birth with midwifes offering guidance and care for women as they start to plan their families. Their people-centred reproductive health care is critical to the sustainable development goal targets to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity by 2030 as well as to achieve universal health care.

In Simiyu Region, UNFPA, under the leadership of government, is stepping up efforts, to make motherhood safer. Thirty-eight government health facilities have been equipped and renovated to provide maternal and newborn health services, including emergency obstetric and newborn care, by UNFPA through financial support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). UNFPA has also supported training for 90 midwives at these facilities to recognize and treat pre-eclampsia and eclampsia and to effectively prevent  maternal deaths caused by post-partum haemorrhage, a leading cause of preventable maternal mortality. 

Speaking at the event, Mr. Jumanne Sagini, Regional Administrative Secretary, Simiyu, said:  “The increase in the number of skilled midwives at health facilities in Simiyu Region has seen a corresponding increase in the number of women giving birth at facilities with a decrease in maternal mortality from 48 deaths in 2017 to 40 deaths in 2018.”

Dr. Faustine Ndugulile, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, reiterated the government’s commitment to improve maternal and child health outcomes and stressed the continued need for collaboration between communities and development partners. Midwives will play a central role in tackling preventable maternal and newborn mortality. Every day their care can mean the difference between life and death for women and children in Tanzania. The expansion of midwifery programmes, maintaining international standards, and an enabling environment for midwives to meet the needs of women and their families will determine how effectively they can fulfil this role.  UNFPA will continue to support further strengthening the midwifery workforce in Tanzania to ensure more women, newborns, children and young people survive, and that families and communities thrive.