May 5, 2024

Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2024

May 5, 2024

Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2024

Midwives, healthcare colleagues, and distinguished guests, 

Happy International Day of the Midwife! 

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 Virtual International Day of the Midwife, a 24-hour Online Conference centred on the 5th May for midwives and anyone interested in childbirth.

As we gather virtually from all corners of the globe, united by our shared commitment to improving maternal health outcomes, let us take a moment to reflect on the profound impact of midwifery in shaping the future of childbirth and beyond. This year, as we commemorate the International Day of the Midwife, our theme resonates deeply with the essence of sustainable midwifery: “Caring for Tomorrow’s World.” Indeed, as the guardians of life’s most sacred moments, midwives hold the key to nurturing a future where every mother and child receives the care and support they deserve while safeguarding the health of our planet for generations to come.

Central to our discussions today is the imperative of Respectful Maternity Care—an ethos which is at the heart of sustainable midwifery. Respectful Maternity Care is a guiding principle that highlights the importance of treating every woman with dignity, compassion, and empathy throughout her childbirth journey. It is about honouring her autonomy, respecting her choices, and upholding her rights, regardless of background or socioeconomic status.

At the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, our flagship Mamacare360 programme is aimed at Goal 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, good health and wellbeing for all, and our WBFA midwives work to improve maternal health by promoting Respectful Maternity Care for all women during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the time after birth, as we see the link between pregnant women and their primary health givers as vital to their health after delivery and that of their newborn.

Mamacare360 delivers care in line with the World Health Organization recommendations for pregnant women to increase the number of contact with healthcare providers throughout their pregnancy, from four to at least eight. Mamacare360 is bridging an identified gap in achieving the best outcomes, by making the mother a premium partner in her own outcome, through education and awareness in birth preparedness. 

The Mamacare360 birth preparedness programme of antenatal and postnatal education uses tools such as Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care (EmONC), client-held Personal Health Records (PHRs) and Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) to empower the mother by engendering health information and education, during that key eleven-month (antenatal and postnatal) nest and nurture period. Alongside this, through the development and distribution of the now ubiquitous clean delivery Mamakit, which has been adopted, replicated, and amplified so widely across the country, we ensure that every pregnant woman has sanitary and sterile delivery materials with her, to encourage safe hospital deliveries.

Furthermore, as we champion RMC, we must also recognise the integral role of mental health in maternity care. The journey to motherhood is a profound and transformative experience—one that can be accompanied by a myriad of emotions, from joy and excitement to fear and uncertainty. Yet, all too often, the mental health needs of mothers are overlooked or marginalised.

Beyond the physical aspects of care, midwives are uniquely positioned to address the holistic needs of expectant mothers, including their mental health. Maternal mental health is an essential component of overall well-being during the perinatal period, impacting not only the mother but also the child and family dynamics. Midwives provide compassionate support, guidance, and resources to help mothers navigate the emotional challenges that often accompany pregnancy and childbirth. By promoting mental wellness and early intervention for issues such as postpartum depression and anxiety, midwives contribute significantly to the long-term health and happiness of both mothers and their families. Their expertise in fostering a nurturing and supportive environment empowers women to embark on their journey into motherhood with confidence and resilience.

The Wellbeing Foundation Africa is proud to be a longstanding technical policy, advocacy, and planning partner to the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and most recently, has developed and integrated Nigeria’s Perinatal Mental Health Checklist within the National Primary Health Care Development Agency Maternal and Child Health MCH Handbook,  highlighting the shared commitment to improving access to primary, secondary and tertiary mental health and wellbeing services for all people in Nigeria, through the structured unification of national policy efforts towards achieving universal health coverage for mental health and encouragement of full implementation of the provisions of the National Mental Health Act of 2021.

Today as we action RMC and our work towards improving maternal mental health, let us also recommit ourselves to ensuring that every mother receives the quality care she deserves and strive to create environments that foster resilience, offer support, and break down the stigma surrounding maternal mental health.

As we navigate the complexities of childbirth in an ever-changing world, let us draw inspiration from the resilience and dedication of midwives everywhere. Together, we have the power to shape a future where every birth is a joyous occasion, every mother is empowered, and every child thrives.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for your unwavering dedication to the noble profession of midwifery. Your tireless efforts, compassion, and advocacy are the bedrock of maternal health, and it is through your collective action that we will continue to make positive strides. 

Thank you, and may this Virtual International Day of the Midwife be a source of inspiration and collaboration, as we forge ahead on our shared workstream towards sustainable midwifery and maternal wellbeing!

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