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Midwives call for higher benefits to improve services for mothers

Florence Nakhumicha,75, demonstrates how her only tool of work functions at her home in Bungoma County. She has been working as a midwife since 1974. [Standard]

Availability of higher pay is the top global demand for midwives today, followed by the need for supplies and decent facilities.

This is according to a global survey in which at least 3,500 midwives and nurses from Kenya participated.

The trends in the midwives’ demands were detected in the research targeting 56,000 midwives in 101 countries by the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).

The new report dubbed Midwives’ Voices, Midwives’ Demands was released this week at a virtual roundtable. It asked governments to tackle the global maternal health crisis “by urgently investing in their midwifery workforce”.

To determine the two priority investment areas, the midwives were asked: “What do you want most in your role as a midwife?”

The “need for supplies and decent facilities” was the top demand for nurses and midwives polled in Kenya, Ghana, India and Nigeria; while viewed globally, this was the second-highest demand.

In Kenya, midwives from across a majority of the counties said their top request was adequate and equipped facilities.

They mentioned delivery beds and equipment, and referral systems that they said were mostly poor, with a concern that the limited number of midwives continued to force them to offer inadequate services.

“In our unprecedented ‘What Women Want Campaign’, women and girls told us one of their top requests for quality reproductive healthcare was increased, competent and better-supported midwives and nurses,” said Angela Nguku, the founder of WRA, Kenya.

Speaking during the release of the report on Tuesday, Ms Nguku added that to fully realise the demand for midwives, “we need to understand better from midwives themselves what they want and need to offer quality care to women and girls.” 

She said the latest report was a major milestone in the response to the more than one million women and girls who voiced their demands for quality reproductive health care in the survey.

“Through their own voices, midwives have told us what they need in order to deliver quality care to mothers and newborns,” she said.

Edna Talam, the Nursing Council of Kenya CEO, said they put in place career progression guidelines for midwives in Kenya, which have created a clear pathway for midwives to pursue midwifery as a dignified profession.

“This has consequently increased the midwives’ workforce in Kenya.” 

Dr Eunice Ndirangu, the Dean of Aga-Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery, and also the chairperson of the Nursing Council of Kenya, said implementation of the recently launched National Nursing and Midwifery Policy would ensure midwives receive quality training.

“It will help increase their workforce, and ensure leadership opportunities are created, and an enabling working environment enhanced for them to deliver quality and dignified maternal health services,” said Dr Ndirangu.

According to the state of the World’s Midwifery Report 2021, the world currently needs 900,000 more midwives. The WRA boss said the aim of the surveys was to achieve improved health systems “based on midwives’ self-identified areas, which will in turn support women and girls globally”.