Over 300,000 women die each year due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, but 83 percent of all maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths could be avoided with the care of a midwife. When looking at these numbers it is easy to see the importance of midwives, especially in developing countries where accessing care or going to a hospital is much harder. In honor of International Day of the Midwife, we celebrate the ways midwives change and save lives.

1. A Midwife and a Bicycle

In honor of International Day of the Midwife, we are going to celebrate midwives by exploring their work in developing countries.Janaki Joshi, 40, lives in a remote village in Kailali District, a Far-Western region of Nepal. At an age where women in rural Nepal are normally confined to their houses or fields, every day Janaki bicycles from home to the local health institution. Janaki shares, “Women in my village are uneducated and backward. They don’t have a choice to be pregnant. It’s often the decision of the husband and they are always under pressure to give birth to sons. Pregnant women are often without good nutrition, anemic, forced to work in the fields, and rarely visit local health institutions.” Janaki was trained in midwifery for three and half months before she joined the Sub Health Post as a midwife sixteen years ago. The training was organized by the government for 24 women like her from the same district to serve in different villages. Since then she has used her skills to save the lives of newborns and young mothers in her village. She also advocates for the need of checkups during and after pregnancy, the importance of vaccinations, and right birthing practices in her community. Read the full story.

2. Women Helping Women in Afghanistan

World Vision’s Midwifery program in Herat, Afghanistan has been training midwives since 2004 and has graduated 171 midwives.  In Afghanistan, a woman has a 1 in 8 chance of dying in childbirth.  Male doctors are forbidden to treat women so most women have no choice but to have their baby at home. World Vision trained midwives are making a difference; women taking care of their own – giving each other a real chance for the future. Learn more.

3. Q & A: Caring for a community in Bangladesh

In honor of International Day of the Midwife, we are going to celebrate midwives by exploring their work in developing countries.“It is not an easy task to perform. I have [responsibility for] two lives at a time — the mother and the baby,” says Aklima Begum, 48. Aklima lives in Bangladesh and is highly respected in her community. Thanks to World Vision, Aklima was able to be educated and certified as a midwife. Midwifery is an extremely important skill for her community, since many families can’t afford to see a doctor or stay in a hospital. The lives of mothers and infants are put at risk when they don’t have access to proper prenatal care or a safe birthing environment. Through her education in midwifery, Aklima is able to provide skilled care to mothers who would otherwise have to go without it. She says, “I am very proud and happy to do this work. It’s not only me; my husband is also proud of my service to the community.” Read the full story.

4.Preventing the Ripple Effect of Losing a Child

In honor of International Day of the Midwife, we are going to celebrate midwives by exploring their work in developing countries.“On my way back home from the hospital, I just kept thinking … How am I going to tell my children, their mother and baby brother died?” Ekari’s husband lamented. “I do not understand why.” But what happens when a mother dies? Grief, sorrow, loss, anger, fear? In our western culture, probably all of the above. But in poor countries, like Indonesia where Ekari’s family is from, there are also social and economic consequences, both for her immediate family and for the community as a whole. When a mother dies, negative financial, educational, and survival consequences are interlinked and intergenerational. That’s why in 2015 World Vision equipped over 220,000 community health workers, those on the frontlines. Read the full story.

5. Merging Tradition and Modern Healthcare

In honor of International Day of the Midwife, we are going to celebrate midwives by exploring their work in developing countries.Mercedes is one of 50 midwives who serve the rural communities surrounding Otavalo, Ecuador. Mercedes acts as a link between the two worlds of conventional and traditional healthcare. With World Vision’s support, Mercedes provides daily care through natural and traditional methods — she treats mom and baby with teas, creams, and soothing rubs she makes with plants from her garden — and provides guidance to both the mother and father as they step into parenting roles. More than anything, Mercedes says being a midwife is about saving mothers’ and babies’ lives. “It’s about community, family, and my neighbors,” she says. Read the full story.

Act

It’s clear, midwives are life-savers!  You can encourage your senators to join you in honoring midwives and to support programs that will continue their heroic work. Send an email to your senators and ask them to show their support for maternal and child health by signing the bipartisan letter in Congress led by Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. The letter asks for strong funding for U.S. foreign assistance accounts that help improve the lives of mothers and babies, including vaccines, nutrition, and global health programs. These programs are just a small proportion of the U.S. foreign assistance budget.

Photo: Zohra, 28, visits the mobile health team of midwives and nursing students for her child’s treatment. Her youngest child, a 3-year-old boy, has diarrhea. © 2014 World Vision/ photo by Narges Ghafary

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