Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Over 4,000 delegates converge in Toronto in world's biggest midwifery conference

  • Nurul Islam Hasib from Toronto, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2017-06-19 02:33:47 BdST


Over 4,000 delegates from across the globe have converged in the Canadian city of Toronto to attend one of the world's largest conference of midwives.

The 31st International Confederation of Midwives’ or ICM Triennial Congress, the biggest event on the midwifery calendar, began officially on Sunday with a colourful display and to highlight their works that "make a difference.”

Earlier, a pre-congress march on Saturday in Toronto announced that the midwives of the world have arrived in the city for their triennial congress.

They chanted for ‘more midwives’ as they walked together in solidarity, united in the message that “the world needs more midwives and needs them now”.

Global evidence shows that midwives who are educated and regulated to international standards can provide 87 percent of the essential care needed for women and newborns.

Investing in midwifery education and deployment to community-based services can potentially yield a 16-fold return on investment regarding lives saved and costs of caesarian sections averted, according to UNFPA.

Currently, in Bangladesh, only 42 percent of women have a skilled birth attendant at their side when delivering their babies, and only 38 percent of them are in health facilities at the time of delivery.

Prior to the inauguration on Sunday, UNFPA, in collaboration with Laerdal Global Health and Jhpiego, conducted a capacity building workshop on the new simulators MamaBirthie and Sister-U for IUD inserting in the normal and post-abortion uterus, for Country Midwives Advisors and UNFPA sponsored participants.

Building on post-simulation studies, the new models have shown significant impact on midwives' increased competence and capacity in supporting normal birth and postpartum family planning.  The models will be included in the UNFPA catalogue in 2017.

Organiser says over 4,000 midwives, medical practitioners, obstetricians, gynaecologists, health care professionals, governments, policy makers along with UN agencies, international non-government organisations and donors from all over the world have convened this time in the conference.

In the four-day event, they will share and learn, network and interact with each other’s work on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights globally, and gain new knowledge and latest evidence in midwifery practice, education and research.

The 2017 Congress will present a new agenda and challenges, in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The vitality of midwives as leaders of a health team especially in the rural community where we do not want any women to be left behind is evident,” Dr Natalie Kanem, acting executive director of the UNFPA that supports midwifery profession, told bdnews24.com.

She said midwives save lives all over the world including in Bangladesh where “we are so proud to see the improvement in maternal health and maternal mortality in recent years”.

“Investing in a midwife you not only invest in health profession but also in good health of that mother and that new baby."

"So we encourage strong investment in training and support of the clinic or health post or the very rural midwife for their dedicated service. UNFPA supports midwives for that reason,” she added.

Midwifery is a new profession in Bangladesh. It was established through a commitment made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010, and since then, it has made some big strides.

Some 597 midwives who graduated from the three-year diploma course in midwifery in late 2015 were officially licensed in February 2016.

Moreover, 600 certified midwives, nurse-midwives, who completed a six-moth post-basic training, have been posted to sub-district level health facilities.

However, much remains to be done. Approximately 5,200 women still die every year in Bangladesh due to pregnancy or birth-related causes, which is 15 women every day, and 23 out of 1000 newborns do not survive. Two-thirds of these deaths would be preventable.

In Toronto, the colourful presence of the midwives in the formal opening is regarded as a ‘Midwifery Olympics’ as over 113 country flags of the ICM member organisations paraded the dais.

Many midwives were seen in colourful national costume or wearing country emblems in the extravaganza full of fun, laughter and joy.

A short address from the ICM President, Frances Day Stirk, who highlighted the role of midwives in the world also followed.

"My message to world leaders is simple- invest more resources in midwifery because the world needs more midwives," she said.