“Midwives are the first eyes to see and the first hands to hold our future” said Mr Stephen Sobhani, a key note speaker at the inaugural midwifery conference in Nigeria. The conference which was held in commemoration of the 2016 International day of the Midwife was hosted by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund and the Wellbeing Foundation. together with the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM).
The two-day conference with the theme, Maternity Matters: The First International Midwifery Conference, Abuja ‘Every Birth Counts’ was a platform to discuss health development in Nigeria, raise awareness on maternal, newborn and child health including the roles Midwives play and best practices to address the challenges they face. The conference echoed the responsibility that policy makers, health professionals and relevant stakeholders have in improving maternal and neo-natal health in the country through improving the status and profession of the midwives.
Speaking at the conference, Ms Frances Day-Stirk President of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) emphasized the importance of midwifery in Nigeria “The roles midwives play in saving lives are invaluable. They are assets especially in Nigeria, a country with a maternal death ratio of 57 per 100,000 live birth, one of the highest in the world”.
“We cannot be silent in addressing the present challenges faced in harnessing the full potential of Midwives in Nigeria”
said Ratidzai Ndhlovu, the UNFPA Representative. She noted that challenges facing midwifery training and practice in Nigeria include , the critical shortage of midwife tutors, these challenges stem from weak institutions, maldistribution and limited number of midwives across the country. Ms. Ndhlovu called for effective strategies around the three cardinal principles of human resource for health - production, deployment and retention.
In response to some of these challenges and in celebrating Nigeria Midwives, UNFPA as part of the 2016 event, donated midwifery training equipment worth $200,000 USD to 11 additional midwifery schools across the states of Borno, Yobe, Imo, Ogun and FCT. This is in addition to other capacity building exercises and equipment donated yearly to all 98 midwifery schools in the country. In 2015, all 98 institutions offering midwifery training in Nigeria received family planning training kits and midwife tutors were trained on long acting reversible contraceptives with direct support from the Fund.
The event brought together policy makers, health care workers, NGOs, local and internationally speakers in the field of midwifery and maternal/neonatal health and other stakeholders.