SHASHEMENE, Ethiopia – One of the key strategies for reducing maternal mortality is making sure trained midwives attend births and can refer women with complications to timely obstetric care. It’s one of the strategies that Ethiopia has embarked on and which is contributing to the steep declines in maternal deaths in that country.
New maternal mortality estimates show that Ethiopia has made significant progress toward the Millennium Development Goal target of a 75 per cent reduction by 2015.
Nevertheless, every year about 14,000 women die in Ethiopia due to pregnancy and child birth and only 10 per cent of them are delivering at health facilities, and Ethiopia is one of the eight high-burden countries that together account for 60 per cent of maternal deaths globally.
In response, the country has set a target of training 8,635 midwives by the year 2015. (It is also scaling up family planning programmes and working to expand medical care to rural areas by training clinicians to be able to handle some obstetric surgeries.)
To reach that target, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has established an Accelerated Midwifery Training Programme, while continuing to train midwives through the regular midwifery schools. The Accelerated Midwifery Programme has the objective of achieving a minimum standard of midwife to population ratio and increasing skilled birth attendance and reproductive health services, especially in the rural areas. Moreover, the programme aims at narrowing the gap in health service delivery and strengthening the midwifery profession.
During this year 1,600 midwives have already graduated through the programme– including 245 midwives who graduated from the Shashemene Health Science College on 12 May.
Following three years nursing training, the graduates did one year training in midwifery, which included practice in numerous health institutions and home visits. Each graduate has assisted more than 20 deliveries.
“You will help us in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in the coming years to meet the MDGs,” the Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, told the graduates.
“We have every hope that you will give quality care and prevent the needless death of pregnant women and newborns,” added Mr. Benoit Kalasa, UNFPA Representative.
UNFPA provided financial and technical support to the midwifery programme through its Maternal Health Thematic Fund, with financial support from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Sweden, the country that pioneered saving mothers’ lives through midwifery more than a century ago, has been an active supporter of midwifery training, in Ethiopia and elsewhere.