May 1, 2024

Unifying Midwifery in Africa: Reimagine, Reignite, Rise!

May 1, 2024

Unifying Midwifery in Africa: Reimagine, Reignite, Rise!



Midwives, healthcare colleagues, and distinguished guests,

My name is Toyin Saraki, Founder and President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, a non-governmental organisation based in Nigeria with the aim of improving maternal, newborn and child health outcomes through midwifery-led frontline programming and global advocacy, and as the Inaugural Global Goodwill Ambassador of the International Confederation of Midwives and the World Health Organization Foundation Inaugural Global Health Ambassador, it is with great pleasure that I extend a warm welcome to the Summit on Unifying Midwifery in Africa: Reimagine, Reignite, Rise!

Firstly, I would like to thank the Summit Leadership, led by a 12-member Steering Committee, co-chaired by CEHDAR, for providing us a platform today, to gather during a pivotal moment in our collective efforts to collaborate and engage with African midwives, midwifery leaders, and supporters, and facilitate strategic discussions to decide the way forward towards a united African midwifery system for Africa, with a singular focus on enhancing the health and wellbeing of mothers, children, and adolescents.

As we convene here today, we are reminded of the profound impact that midwives have on the lives of countless individuals and families. Each midwife is a steward of life, as the caregiver, protector, teacher and advocate, guiding newborns through their tender first few crucial moments, and cradling mothers as they navigate the vast expanse of motherhood’s embrace, all while safeguarding the sanctity of birth.

The recent State of the World’s Midwifery report has established that when midwives are educated to international standards, and midwifery includes the provision of family planning, it could avert more than 80% of all maternal deaths, stillbirths and neonatal deaths. Achieving this impact also requires midwives to be licensed, regulated, fully integrated into health systems, and working in interprofessional teams. Therefore, the evidence is unequivocal: when midwives are equipped with the necessary education, resources, and support, they have the power to avert a significant portion of maternal and newborn deaths and can achieve global, regional, and national RMNCAH goals.

Yet, despite the invaluable contributions of midwives, we find ourselves confronted with a stark reality—a shortage of these vital healthcare professionals, particularly in Africa, where the need is vast. This reality demands our urgent attention and concerted action, for every mother, every child, and every adolescent deserves access to quality healthcare, and we must rise to meet this challenge head-on, transforming the trajectory.

According to the International Confederation of Midwives, the three key pillars of a profession are education, regulation, and professional association. This is to be supported by strong policy, leadership, sound governance, and a formidable workforce management system within an atmosphere of respect for the voices of midwives for mothers, their newborns and the profession of midwifery by midwives.

As we convene in Ghana today, I commend the Ghana Registered Midwives Association which is amongst the oldest of such organisations in Africa and highlight that we stand on the cusp of a new chapter—one defined by revitalisation, reimagination, and resurgence, especially in unifying the voice of midwifery across the continent, which has refound support and leadership – envisioning an African continent where competent midwives are available in all settings to provide quality midwifery care in partnership with women, their families and the community.

As we mobilise African midwives to translate and culturally adapt the global health agenda to align with regional and national-level evidence-based interventions and promote the African maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health agenda for 2030 and beyond; over the next three days at this summit, you will engage in meaningful discussions, deliberate on key issues, and chart a course towards a defined African midwifery system, drawing upon the wisdom and expertise of participants from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, unified by a common purpose: to empower midwives, strengthen midwifery associations, and improve health outcomes for all.

At the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, we have worked with the federal and regional governments of Nigeria to improve the training, working conditions and remuneration of midwives, as well as deploying midwives to underserved, rural areas of the country, and we continuously witness first-hand how our interventions would have limited impact without competent, educated, and empowered WBFA midwives, who are at the core of our frontline work and the protagonists in achieving safe births and lowering maternal mortality and morbidity rates, in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3, Good Health and Well-being.

As we embark on this journey, let us reflect on the popular African proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ The task before us may seem daunting, but it is not insurmountable. With determination, perseverance, and solidarity, we can—and we will—forge a flourishing and healthier future for midwifery in Africa.

Thank you!

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