By Regina Pratt
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Association of Midwifery, held a one-day workshop on Monday 27th January to discuss the ‘State of the World Report on Midwives’ at the Presidential Lounge of the National Stadium in Freetown.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chief Nursing Officer in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Mrs. Hussainatu Kanu, who chaired the program, said the event was a milestone in the history of midwifery, adding that UNFPA has given them the opportunity to discuss the report on issues affecting midwifery worldwide.
She stated that a similar workshop was held by UNFPA in December 2013 to critically examine the report and to look at some of the key concerns raised in that report from the Sierra Leone point of view, noting that it is about data collection and progress made in 2011.
Mrs. Kanu stated that the mandate of UNFPA is to develop the existing reproductive health system in the country for which SLAM is partnering with WHO and other stakeholders to create the enabling environment for women to deliver safely during hospital checkup.
The Special Adviser on Gender Issues-UNFPA, Madam McCarthy, who spoke on behalf of the Country Representative, said the report is the first of its kind and that the purpose of validating it is to identify the progress made in the year under review, but more especially to highlight the challenges midwives are facing and how to address them.
She disclosed that the reports of 58 countries have been validated but that 38 of these countries, both in Africa and Asia, have the highest number of maternal and mortality rates; an indication that even though progress has been made, more still needs to be done to improve the reproductive health delivery system in various countries, especially Sierra Leone.
Dr. Joan H. Shepherd, president of the Sierra Leone Midwives Association, noted that the report identifies issues like delivering babies, huddles in complications, accelerating training to attract midwives and how they can develop strategies to encourage more people into the profession.
She disclosed that even though they have been making some progress, there are still challenges, namely the posting of midwives in remote parts of the country with only 300 qualified midwives nationwide, and the Association developing professional courses to improve the skills of midwives.
Responding to questions about the recent increase in the death rate among children in Sierra Leone as reported by the Births and Deaths office for 2013, Dr. Shepherd said socio-cultural factors and delays in taking children to the nearest hospitals are key factors responsible for the high maternal and mortality rates in the country, but guaranteed that with the new policy, it would improve.
In her keynote address, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Sarian Kamara, thanked the organizers of the workshop, stating that with the review of the report, it would improve the health delivery system in the country.