Save the Children and the International Confederation of Midwives Announce Winners of International Midwifery Award

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Midwives from Afghanistan and Tanzania recognized for championing improved policies and practices in challenging environments

Save the Children and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) presented International Midwifery Awards to Amina Sultani of Afghanistan and Loveluck Mwasha of Tanzania at a ceremony today at the ICM 31st Triennial Congress in Toronto, Canada. ICM President Frances Day-Stirk and Save the Children President and CEO Patricia Erb jointly presented the awards.

Day-Stirk said the needs of midwifery across multiple settings – humanitarian, marginalized, or hard to reach – are remarkably similar. “Both Loveluck and Amina are working for the same goals in very different settings: for the recognition of their work, supportive policies, and the training and resources they need to enable mothers to give birth safely and their newborns to get a healthy start in life,” she said.

Erb said she was impressed by level of interest in the awards this year. Of the more than 50 nominations from 18 countries, Erb said, “It’s heartening to see this clear evidence of midwives speaking up and making a difference in policies and practices that affect midwifery and the conditions under which midwives work.”

Winners of the International Midwifery Award are key advocates, educating and mobilizing national and global stakeholders about the importance of midwifery in maternal and newborn care and of the critical need to support the midwifery profession, especially in countries where the morbidity and mortality burdens for mothers and newborns are highest.

About the Winners

Loveluck Mwasha (Tanzania)

During her 30 years as a midwife providing quality care for mothers and newborns in Tanzania, Loveluck Mwasha has been a steadfast advocate for and mentor to midwives through her work on the board of the Tanzania Nursing and Midwifery Council and at the Aga Khan Hospital and University School of Nursing and Midwifery. Loveluck’s mentorship and advocacy support important improvements in policy, funding, and the practice of midwifery.

“My work is an opportunity to advocate for better support and training of midwives,” Mwasha said. “We work with stakeholders to help them appreciate midwives’ role in supporting women’s reproductive health, from community groups to members of parliament.”

Midwifery advocates have seen recent successes in Tanzania, including increases to the maternal and child health national budget. The Ministry of Health is also strengthening the midwifery training system and has agreed to recognize midwifery as a stand-alone profession. The country has also committed to increasing the number of qualified and competent midwives by 2020, particularly in hardest-to-reach rural areas.

Amina Sultani (Afghanistan)

In Kabul, Afghanistan, Amina Sultani has been a steadfast advocate and leader in the field of midwifery since 2012, working with the Kabul Medical University, the Afghan Midwives Association (AMA), and the Afghan Midwifery and Nursing Council. In her current role at the Ministry of Public Health, Sultani is deeply committed to empowering midwives as leaders in health policy and programs.

Sultani helped establish the first direct-entry midwifery bachelor’s degree in Afghanistan and teaches courses in the program. In her current role as vice president of AMA, she organizes advocacy events and meetings with civil society and stakeholders, promoting the midwifery profession and issues surrounding maternal and newborn health.

Sultani said it was important for midwives to be “empowered and involved at every level, from the health facility to the Ministry of Public Health.” “I tell all midwives, ‘please believe in your ability and believe in your power,’” she said. “The midwife is the first person to touch the mother and baby. Midwives must believe in themselves so they can help and support the mother and baby. It's very important.”

The Importance of Midwifery in Challenging Contexts

Midwives are the single most important cadre for preventing maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths. Especially in humanitarian contexts and for poor or hard-to-reach populations, midwives provide the majority of immediate care to mothers and newborns, often without support, materials, training, or recognition.

The global shortage of midwives, estimated at 350,000, puts millions of women and babies at risk and is a major contributor to some grim statistics. Each year 1 million newborns die during their first day of life, 1.3 babies are stillborn, and 303,000 mothers die during pregnancy and childbirth. However, with proper care around the time of birth, more than 70 percent of these deaths could be averted.

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) is highlighting some of the challenges midwifery faces at the policy and facility level this week at its 2017 Triennial Congress (http://www.midwives2017.org) in Toronto, Canada. ICM’s CEO, Sally Pairman said, “The aim is to call attention to what is needed to ensure that all women and their babies receive high-quality, woman-centered midwifery care, wherever they may be.”

History and Purpose of the International Midwifery Awards

Save the Children has partnered for with ICM since 2005 to recognize midwives who have made a difference in their countries by championing improved policies for funding and training skilled birth attendants; improving training, mentoring, and supportive supervision; or making an impact at scaling up midwifery at the national or regional level. (For a list of previous winners see http://www.healthynewbornnetwork.org/international-midwifery-award-2017.)

Afghanistan Facts

Every day in Afghanistan, 188 women and their babies die due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth. This is 68,500 deaths each year, 70 percent or more of which are preventable with proven and effective interventions.

Total population: 32,526,000
Mothers, Newborns & Children
Annual births: 1,080,600
Maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 births: 396
Annual maternal deaths: 4,300
Neonatal mortality rate per 1,000 live births: 36
Annual number of newborn deaths: 36,200
Under 5 mortality rate per 1,000 live births: 91
Annual number of under 5 deaths: 94,300
Annual number of stillbirths: 28,000
Proportion of under-5 deaths that occur in the neonatal period (%): 38
Total fertility rate: 4.7
Adolescent pregnancy (% of women aged 20–24 who gave birth before age 18): 25.6
Health System    
Health worker density (per 10,000) – doctors, nurses, midwives: 7
Percentage births in facility (%): 43
Percentage of postnatal care for mothers within 2 days (%): 23
Percentage of postnatal care for newborns within 2 days (%): N/A
Early initiation of breastfeeding (%): 54

Tanzania Facts

Every day in Tanzania, 257 women and their babies die due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth. This is 93,800 deaths each year, 70 percent or more of which are preventable with proven and effective interventions.

Total population: 53,470,000
Mothers, Newborns and Children    
Annual births: 2,064,400
Maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 births: 398
Annual maternal deaths: 8,200
Neonatal mortality rate per 1,000 live births: 19
Annual number of newborn deaths: 38,600
Under 5 mortality rate per 1,000 live births: 49
Annual number of under 5 deaths: 98,200
Annual number of stillbirths: 47,100
Proportion of under-5 deaths that occur in the neonatal period (%): 39
Total fertility rate: 5.1
Adolescent pregnancy (% of women aged 20–24 who gave birth before age 18): 28
Health System    
Health worker density (per 10,000) – doctors, nurses, midwives: 4.7
Percentage births in facility (%): 50
Percentage of postnatal care for mothers within 2 days (%): 31
Percentage of postnatal care for newborns within 2 days (%): 2
Early initiation of breastfeeding (%): 51

Source for both countries: HNN Newborn Numbers (http://www.healthynewbornnetwork.org/numbers). Data is from 2015, the most recent available.

About ICM: Founded in 1919, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) is an accredited nongovernmental organization that represents midwives’ associations worldwide to achieve common goals in the care of mothers and newborns. Currently, there are 130 ICM member associations in 113 countries. For more information visit http://www.internationalmidwives.org

About Save the Children: Save the Children invests in childhood – every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Around the world, we give children a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. By transforming children’s lives now, we change the course of their future and ours. For more information visit http://www.savethechildren.org.

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John Engels
Save the Children
+1 202.794.1593
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Sawiche Wamunza
International Confederation of Midwives
+31 (0) 70 3060 520
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