By Her Excellency Toyin Saraki
Midwives have played an invaluable role in women’s health for over 2000 years, with references to midwives even included in the Bible. As support for the profession grew, and training became formalised over time, the medical skills of midwives have grown significantly. Skilled midwives now have the training, knowledge and potential to provide expert advice to pregnant women about their health and the health of their child — both during and after pregnancy. This year is one of great importance for the international community as we make the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This pivotal year for international development is also crucial for the direction of midwifery, as I firmly believe that midwives will play a key role in the achievement of SDG 3 — to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Midwifery in the sustainable development era
As the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), the journey of the midwifery profession and midwives around the world is exceptionally important to me. As ICM Global Goodwill Ambassador, I seek to ensure that the voice of midwives is heard on international stages, such as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
This September at the 70th UNGA in New York, I amplified the voice of midwives globally, speaking of the incomparable impact that midwives can have in overcoming social determinants of health, protecting pregnant migrants and refugees, and providing antenatal care that can transform health habits for generations. In this role, I seek to expand the visibility of midwives by shining a spotlight on the excellent work of local midwives through my global tour of national midwifery associations, which has already seen me visit Suriname, Lesotho, the United States of America and many other countries, for regional ICM conferences.
I also seek to further the vision of the ICM, its member associations, and individual midwives, of a world where every childbearing woman has access to a midwife’s care for herself and her newborn. This role is one that I am passionate about because I know that by expanding the voice, visibility, and vision of midwives, we can make a drastic impact on the health of mothers, newborns, and children around the world in this new era of sustainable development. No mother, anywhere in the world, should have to risk her life and that of her baby by going through childbirth without expert care.
Complications that kill hundreds of thousands of women and babies in developing countries are managed effectively in richer countries by a midwife or health worker with the right skills, the right equipment and the support of a health system.
Since 2000, when eight MDGs came into effect, the international development community has focused its efforts on fulfilling the targets by the end of 2015. On 1st January 2016, 17 SDGs will come into effect. The SDGs seek to set the world on the road to human dignity by 2030, encompassing far-reaching goals that include peaceful, inclusive societies, climate change, the reduction of inequality, and the strengthening of global partnerships.
I established the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) in 2004 to accelerate progress on the MDGs in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular emphasis on MDG 4, which sought to reduce child mortality, MDG 5, which is dedicated to improving maternal health and MDG 6, which sought to combat HIV, AIDS, malaria and other diseases like polio. The progress that has been made on the MDGs globally has been outstanding, with a 53% decrease in preventable deaths of children under the age of five between 1990 and 2013 (BBC News 2015) and a 45% reduction in global maternal mortality rates between 1990 and 2013 (World Health Organization (WHO) 2014a).
Her Excellency Toyin Saraki is the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and the Founder of Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA).
This article can be found: MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 25, no 4, December 2015, pp 413 – 418
Original article. © MIDIRS 2015
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