Midwives: Champions of climate resilience and reproductive justice

Laila Baker
Sunday 5 May 2024

Every year on this day, we celebrate the remarkable contributions of midwives in saving lives and ensuring the well-being of women and newborns.

 

These dedicated professionals play a pivotal role in providing essential sexual, reproductive, maternal, and newborn health services, with the potential to save millions of lives by 2035. Yet, despite their invaluable work, midwives in the Arab region face numerous challenges that hinder their ability to fulfill their potential.

The Arab region is currently grappling with a shortage of 130,000 midwives. With only 1.9 midwives per 10,000 population, far below the global average of 4.4, it is clear that urgent action is required to address this disparity. Furthermore, these health providers, predominantly women, are often undervalued and underpaid.

In a region experiencing multiple conflicts and one expected to become hotter and drier under projected future climate predictions, we take this moment to champion universal access to skilled midwives as one of the most important ways to avert preventable maternal and newborn deaths. Midwives improve women's birthing experiences, reduce healthcare costs, and deliver more economical and environmentally sustainable health services, playing a key role in making health systems more climate resilient.

In the past year, midwives in our region have confronted additional obstacles that further compromise the health and safety of women and newborns. From climate-induced challenges like droughts in Somalia to natural disasters such as the earthquake in Morocco and flooding in Libya, and the ongoing conflicts in Palestine, Sudan, and Yemen, the resilience and dedication of midwives have been tested. Yet, they continue to show up to support mothers and newborns even in the hardest of times.

 "We are delivering babies non-stop. One day, we had 78 newborns. There is not enough time for us in the day to even eat or drink. We can't sit down for even a minute," expressed a midwife in Rafah, Gaza. This is just one example of the countless stories that highlight the unwavering commitment of midwives in the face of adversity.

Despite these adversities, midwives remain the primary point of contact with the healthcare system for many women and communities, offering vital information on sexual and reproductive health, family planning, and addressing sensitive issues. They are the heroes of many stories, providing crucial care and guidance, particularly during emergencies, including those caused by climate disasters.

It is crucial that we recognize the critical role midwives play in times of crisis. Their presence is essential for providing essential care and guidance, particularly during emergencies. By ensuring universal access to skilled midwives, we can significantly reduce preventable maternal and newborn deaths in our region. As conflicts persist and climate change threatens to exacerbate existing challenges, investing in midwifery education and regulation becomes even more imperative.

Today, we commend the tireless efforts of midwives throughout the Arab region. From Gaza to Yemen, from Somalia to Morocco, these dedicated professionals continue to deliver quality care under the most challenging circumstances, including those posed by climate disasters. They are at the forefront of advancing policy discussions, advocating for expanded midwifery models of care, and shaping a future where every childbirth is safe.

To achieve this vision, it is crucial that governments, healthcare institutions, and international organizations prioritize investment in midwifery. We must ensure that midwives are adequately compensated, provided with the resources they need, and given the recognition they deserve. If every pregnant woman in the Arab region had access to a well-trained, caring midwife, we would be much closer to a region where every childbirth is safe.

 

Short link: