PNG lacks qualified midwives

Editorial

Even though the maternal and newborn death rate is declining, pregnancy and childbirth remain risky for the health of many women around the world.
For every woman who dies in childbirth, an estimated 20 to 30 encounter injuries, infections or disabilities during labour.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), midwives can deliver 87 per cent of all essential sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health services.
Midwives are public health heroes, ensuring that a woman can have a healthy pregnancy, safe childbirth and essential care for her newborn – is among the most basic human rights.
A bridge between communities and traditional health facilities, midwives deliver vital maternal health services that are key to reducing maternal deaths and making childbirth safer in remote and underserved areas, and in humanitarian crises.
Midwives not only save lives, they also empower women and couples to make informed, healthy choices.
The world celebrated International Day of the Midwife on Sunday.
The idea of having a day to recognise and honour midwives came out of the 1987 International Confederation of Midwives conference in the Netherlands.
The world has seen a steady decline in maternal and newborn deaths since 1990, in large part because more women are receiving skilled midwifery care: from 67 per cent in 2010 to 79 per cent in 2017.
According to WHO, quality midwifery reduces maternal and newborn mortality and stillbirth rates by over 80 per cent, and reduces pre-term labour and birth by 24 per cent.
Yet hundreds of thousands of women and newborns continue to die each year during pregnancy and childbirth.
Most of these deaths are preventable and the vast majority of these women lost their lives due to complications and illnesses that could have been prevented with proper antenatal, delivery and post-natal care – services provided by midwives.
Unfortunately for Papua New Guinea, disturbing figures released in March this year stating that PNG has the lowest number of skilled birth attendants and needs 6,000 more to meet global standard.
And a 2019 Maternal and Newborn Health Task Force report said high maternal and newborn mortality in the country is partly because of lack of midwives or skilled birth attendants in health facilities.
The report adds there were so many factors contribute to 2,000 women dying yearly during pregnancy or after giving birth which is one of the highest rates in the world.
PNG has insufficient midwives or other skilled health workers to assist an estimated 1.8 million reproductive aged women, who give birth to approximately 220,000 babies every year.
Today, 73 countries from which data was collected have 96 per cent of the world’s maternal deaths, but only 42 per cent of the world’s midwives, nurses and doctors.
Some 30 million women do not give birth in a health facility and 45 million receive inadequate ante-natal care.
Health reports say midwifery training schools has increased to five and 394 new midwives were educated between 2012 and 2015 and more needed to be done including up skilling of community health workers and nurses around the country.
Midwifery was included in the health workers’ training curriculum, however, institutions lack the capacity to train a lot due to insufficient support from the government.
Our partners are ready to assist training and up skilling whatever resources we have and they require 100 per cent Government commitment.
Government must support for midwifery education to improve maternal and neonatal health in PNG.

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