Toyin Saraki, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly this week, called on Governments and global institutions to provide better respect, recognition, regulation, remuneration and safety for midwives, frontline health workers
Mrs Saraki, who is Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), spoke at high-level stakeholders and reception events to raise the visibility of midwives' contributions to strengthening public health systems around the world and challenged inadequate actions on recent security tragedies for health workers in Nigeria and globally.
Mrs Saraki submitted global strategy interventions at the International Confederation of Midwives global stakeholders strategy meeting bringing together multilateral donor agencies and partners including Johnson & Johnson, Jhpiego, the American Association of Paediatrics, UNFPA and USAID.
In her speeches to ICM yesterday evening Mrs Saraki commented:
"I celebrate the excellent leadership of the International Confederation of Midwives in bringing better regulation, education standards and quality of care to the
Midwifery profession in 113 nation's through 132 national Midwifery associations, and must commend the ICM's strategic collaborations with multi-lateral agencies and partners which have brought crucial global innovations to the frontline of Maternal newborn and reproductive health, as midwives lead the way in ensuring that mothers and their newborns survive childbirth and thrive, I must call the world's attention to the persistent deadly challenge of unacceptable dangers of attacks on midwives and health workers, while they give of themselves to help the world's most vulnerable citizens, in the most fragile conditions. Midwives and healthworkers should not be a target.
"In March, a 25-year-old midwife named Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa was kidnapped by militants alongside two other International Committee of the Red Cross aid workers. Saifura, a young mother herself, had moved to Rann in north-eastern Nigeria to selflessly help those in need.
"Saifura's murder last week is a tragedy for Nigeria and for the global community of midwives. As a mother, as a Nigerian, and as a champion for midwives, I am devastated that we have lost one of our own. We pray and work for the release and rescue of Hauwa Mohammed Liman and Alice Loksha as we come to terms with this stark reminder of the threat to life and liberty faced by midwives, nurses and health-care workers who selflessly work for the health and wellbeing of others.
"Saifura had specifically been working in a facility for Internally Displaced Persons – where women are of course particularly vulnerable. Two days after the terrible news broke, our MamaCare midwife Rita was herself conducting an antenatal class in an IDP camp, albeit in an area with a quite different security situation.
"There can be no greater reminder of the need to support ICM's advocacy and aims to ensure that it's over 500,000 midwife-members and 132 national Midwifery associations in 113 countries and 6 global regions, including Nigeria, are better recognised, regulated, respected and remunerated, than the news last week and highlight the work carried out by midwives like Saifura and Rita, with no fanfare, day after day, in some of the most challenging conditions imaginable.
"I have now been ICM's Global Goodwill Ambassador for quite some time - four and a half years and counting, in fact. I am fortunate in this role to have my work informed by the Wellbeing Foundation Africa MamaCare midwives, by the team at ICM, and by friends – many of them here – who share our vision and commitment to raising the visibility and standards of midwifery. I have seen for myself the beneficial impact of adopting ICM's midwifery- led innovations such as my Wellbeing Foundation Africa's Mamacare Antenatal Education that ensures women survive and thrive, and our Emergency Management of Obstetric and Newborn Complications Training for healthworkers that equip frontline medical personnel in helping babies breathe and treating maternal post-partum haemorrage.
"Like all of you, however, I continue to strive to find new and effective ways to champion the cause of midwives, both as a public advocate and in private. Making the right case to the right people, at any level, is something I know we can share our wisdom on – please never refrain from letting me know how I can be a better champion to help midwives realise the appropriately improved recognition, respect, regulation, remuneration, safety and security."
Mrs Saraki's words were echoed by Dereje Wordofa, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, who commended the role midwives have played in conflict and crisis health situations at the recent Cox's Bazar Bangladesh health crisis, particularly in providing psycho-social counselling to post-traumatic stress survivors.
Toyin Saraki, who was joined at the Midwifery Champions Reception to honour innovative contributions by other renowned reproductive health advocates, Filmmaker Christy Turlington, and Somaliland pioneer midwife Edna Adan Ismail - is Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives, Special Adviser to the World Health Organization regional office for Africa and Wife of the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.