By: Joy Marini, Director of Corporate Contributions for Johnson & Johnson, Maternal and Child Health
One day after the International Day of the Midwife, I am gathering with colleagues in Africa to discuss how we can help address the shortage of global health workers.
In sub-Saharan Africa, many women give birth alone, and without a skilled attendant such as a midwife, there is no one to address the complications of child delivery or to advise a pregnant woman to seek more skilled care. In fact, more women in this region die during pregnancy and childbirth than any other place on earth – claiming as many as one in eight lives.
As a first step toward the International Confederation of Midwives gathering in Durban, South Africa this summer, health professionals around the world participated yesterday in the Global March for Midwives – a 5K walk to call for increased support for skilled birth attendants. In Washington, DC, thousands of people took to the streets on a brilliantly sunny Spring day to ensure that midwivery remains a priority on the global health agenda.
As I travel throughout the developing world, I often see pregnant women caring for other children, carrying heavy water or sweeping dirt floors. They are weary, but still have the beautiful glow of a woman with child, full of hope for a healthy new life. While many are unaware of the risks of giving birth without a midwife, others do not have access to a midwife or simply cannot afford their services. Still others have cultural reasons for not seeking a skilled attendant.
Johnson & Johnson has a long history of supporting midwifery education, from pre-service training to in-service enhancement of skills. With each partnership, we ask ourselves, “What more can we do? What might we do better?” We are optimistic about a number of initiatives – some providing scholarship loans to nurses and midwives in Kenya to help them advance their training and others offering enhanced training in emergency obstetric skills in Nigeria, Tanzania and Malawi, as well as Vietnam and Mexico.
As we look to safeguard the health of women and children globally, I am hopeful. There are simple, low-cost measures that have the potential to prevent maternal and newborn deaths and secure safe motherhood for all – and expanding access to skilled birth attendants is one of them.