The year 2020 was indeed a year of many unprecedented firsts, including the very first International Year Of The Nurse and Midwife, bringing long aspired recognition to the caring professions of nursing and midwifery, and the support systems that uphold their professional frameworks, which I was delighted to celebrate as the Inaugural Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives, and as a longstanding supporter of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives..
Reflecting on the many challenges that arose last year, and remembering with fondness, the lives affected and tragically lost, today we recognise, celebrate and signpost the formidable work my Wellbeing Foundation Africa Midwives and Midwives worldwide, have committed to – particularly as the ‘new normal’ continues to evolve.
We have powered through with determination in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and arrived at a full circle moment far different to past observations of days of commemoration, particularly in marking the simultaneous intersection of the International Day of The Midwife with World Hygiene Day For Healthworkers, in the fully reinforced knowledge that every midwife and health worker, everywhere, requires effective hand hygiene at the point of care, now more than ever.
According to the WHO, the total health workforce in Africa currently stands at 1,640.000 people, of which, health service providers (doctors, nurses, midwives, laboratory technicians and community healthcare workers make up 1,360,000, of the workforce.)
While my global advocacy has amplified the importance of access to clean water sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities as being of equal importance to Personal Health Records and Vaccine Scheduling as just one of many examples of contributions to national data collection, the road to innovation which has been extensively re-mapped under the pressure of last year has proven that the resilience from adapted solutions and ways of working, recording and capturing data must continue to emerge.
Healthcare systems across the world have scrambled to draw workers from many units in order to assist with the pandemic and losing so many in the process, the importance of the professional and specialist midwife has been highlighted as essential to maintaining the gains made in other areas of healthcare service delivery outside of the pandemic.
2020 saw every citizen develop and demonstrate a sense of global sensitivity as we journeyed through a myriad of feelings. On the side of promise and positivity, a number of people took the time to delve deeper; in their homes, work teams and personal spaces, and in doing so, not only proved a sense of tenacity, committed to being recorded as a surviving number.
We have recorded fluctuating virus contraction rates across nations, and amidst the pain and unpredictably unprecedented chaos and strain that Community Health Workers, Health and Care Facility staff and Healthcare Infrastructures have been under worldwide, our ability to recognise areas of neglect, advocate for increased remuneration and push for more essential PPE was largely due to commitments to collaboration – a collaboration which provided every nation with the numbers needed to move the world further forward, while identifying all those who truly helped to keep the world going round.
Each strong national, regional, and global platform and partnership the Wellbeing Foundation Africa implements and amplifies has been maintained with UN EWEC, WHO, Global Water 2020, UNFPA, LSTM, JNJ, Laerdal Global Health, Global Affairs Canada, Nutrition International and Alive and Thrive to name a few, continuing to provide solutions by way of revised advocacy, policy and actions on key issues surrounding RMNCAH, Nutrition, Water and Sanitation Hygiene, Primary and Adolescent Health Education, SRH and gender equality, leading the line to achieve 8 of the 17 SDGs in sub-Saharan Africa – despite a global pandemic.
At each juncture, our midwives have committed to the completion of each cause and the delivery of a continuity of care in an attempt to stabilise every cradle, in every community they reach. We have seen continued to witness the unmatched application of skills acquired in seasons past, as our frontline interlocutors lend their voice, hands and hearts to women and families across Nigeria, making it a pertinent point to reach the very last mile and make antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care truly equitable and alive via our bustling WhatsApp communities.
We’ve continued to see a near zeroing rate of Obstetric Emergencies in WBFA’s flagship EmONC training state of Kwara, in spite of economic, social and emotional challenges. Across the nation, from Lagos to Oshogbo, Ilorin, Kaduna, Abuja, Lafia and more, our Mamacare Program mothers, newborns and children have been equipped, empowered and invigorated at every juncture. Understanding that providing critical skills and support for women and children are fundamental solutions to improving health outcomes in Nigeria, and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened this priority.
My WBFA has remained in close convening with key stakeholders in the public, private and third sectors, to promote greater investment and shine a light on the efforts and contributions to ensure comprehensive access to primary healthcare at the community frontline, consolidating home-based health records and supporting maternal and child health handbooks, leading on Nigeria’s Primary Healthcare Revitalisation Support Group (PHCRSG), a coalition of over 70 NGOs and CSOs, including development partners like multilaterals and bilaterals, and mobilising the global water community to applaud midwives and nurses with WASH. Such convenings and the content and progress thereof, is only possible when there is data-driven evidence available – made available by the physical number of staff on the frontline.
We must continue to have every midwife in mind when discussions surrounding methods and pathways to achieving true resilience, remunerating fairly and up-skilling accordingly are being had. The number of them will determine the number of us in years to come.
This year, the ICM’s theme of Follow the Data: Invest in Midwives, depicts duality and a future of well-deserved possibilities for midwives worldwide. As facilitators called to nurture, care, birth and rear, midwives put the ‘front’ in frontline and count kicks and record the progress of every woman and her anticipated neonate(s) while doing so.
I lend my voice as a contribution to the heightened respect that data has received in this season, and celebrate every Midwife – trainee and qualified – who has contributed to the numbers in position and in their daily protocol.
Now the journey continues, to support their resilience further by creating appropriate methods for reporting and capturing data, and in the context of heightened risks of racial inequities, I am delighted to welcome partners that have risen to the challenge of resource mobilisation to promote research and development towards racial equality across all areas of reproductive medicine and maternal health.
The Ferring Innovation Grants Programme for Racial Equality in Reproductive Medicine and Maternal Health is focused on reducing racial disparities in maternal mortality and improving in vitro fertilisation (IVF), pregnancy and postpartum outcomes for Black communities, Indigenous communities and all communities of colour, to deepen understanding and, ultimately, drive solutions to tackle racial disparities in reproductive medicine and maternal health. In funding multidisciplinary research projects across the four main areas of basic and translational research, clinical research, epidemiology and prevention research, and social science research. Fittingly, the programme also welcomes submissions exploring racial disparities associated with COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation and health outcomes during pregnancy and birth.
We work towards a near future that will see data capture affording its collators the remuneration, up-skilling and support they need and deserve, in order to preserve the resilience they have so powerfully developed.
So here is to a Happy International Day of the Midwife, and a happy World Hygiene Day.
I am proud to be an interlocutor, an advocate, and a tool of amplification for you all, and will continue to work in the direction of a better, respected and celebrated future for you, for mothers and for children.