Midwifery in Ethiopia
Posted by Jennifer Naidoo on Monday 27th November 2017
Improving maternal, newborn and child care is crucial for having a healthy, thriving population. Lelabo Kalemat Dere is one of the 29 new midwives who graduated since Ethiopiaid Canada began supporting Amref Health Africa’s Midwifery program in the South Omo region. After graduating, she returned to her community (the Mursi people) to provide professional, safe birth advice for the first time.
According to Lelabo’s own words, midwives are much needed in the Mursi community: “It is common for women to give birth alone in a forest. To deal with the pain, they use a kneeling down position and hold a stick to keep their balance. The suffering they go through is unimaginable. I remember about women dying alone in the forest due to the bleeding. Some lost their newborn.”
This situation does not affect the Mursi people exclusively. In the entire country, the average rate of under-5 mortality is 67 deaths per 1,000 live births (6.7%). And according to Amref Health Africa, 201,000 mothers died in pregnancy and childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa, in 2015 alone.
These numbers depend largely on access to pregnancy care, health facilities and postnatal care for mothers and children. According to the 2016 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey, only 36% of live births all over the country over the previous 5 years were delivered in a health facility. Particularly in rural areas, home delivery is very common due to distance, inaccessibility or lack of appropriate facilities. In Afar, there are presently only 50 midwives working, contributing to a very low rate of births delivered in a health facility: only 1 out of 10. Consequently, the rates of newborn and child mortality is high: 1 out of 8 Afari children (12.5%) die before their 5th birthday, while the rate in the capital city Addis Ababa is only 3.9%.
The respective efforts held in Ethiopia to improve maternal and newborn mortality are proving right, as the under-5 and the infant mortality rates have been sharply declining in the country. This results from a general improvement on health care for mothers and children, which has been observed in the country since 1954, when the first midwifery training program began at Gondar Hospital (where Ethiopiaid supports fistula repair surgeries). However, the newborn mortality has not experienced the improvements. These deaths are directly related to pregnancy and delivery issues, stressing the importance and need for training midwives. Midwives are among the frontline workers in the provision of maternal and newborn health service, working closely with other professionals in health care facilities, identifying and referring complications before they become life-threatening, and giving essential emergency obstetric and newborn care during normal deliveries. And in more remote communities, they can be the only people mothers and newborn babies can rely on for a safe and healthy delivery.
Currently, there are about 46 midwifery training institutes in all Ethiopia. The government plans to train approximately 9,000 midwifes by 2020 and deploy at least two midwives per health centre. And with the help of partners like Amref Health Africa, Ethiopiaid will be raising funds to support the training of 16 midwives every year for the next 3 years. This will provide 3-year college education consisting of in class as well as clinical based practical training to prepare midwives to work in the challenging environment of Afar. Ultimately, these midwives will become true agents of change make a difference in the lives of mothers and children, providing them qualified health care during pregnancy, birth and first days of life.
And you can help us enable more and more people to become competent midwives in Ethiopia! When you donate $80, you are putting a student through a full month of midwifery classes. And more than changing one person’s life, you are helping to change the life of thousands of Ethiopian women and children by giving them the best possible gift: the gift of life and good health!
Even a small gift can make a BIG difference! Call us at 613-238-4481 or give online. It’s simple: http://ethiopiaid.ca/donate
Written by: Alexei Michailowsky, Volunteer Communications Assistant with Ethiopiaid Canada.