Limited education opportunities for midwives has been cited as one of the stumbling block in the growth of the midwifery profession.
This was cited last week, as Rwanda marked the International Day of the Midwife, during a virtual ceremony that was organised by the Rwanda Association of Midwives.
Partners highlighted the need to promote and deliver quality care and support for the sustainability of maternal and new-born health services. This they said however, was attainable with more initiatives in place that would facilitate midwives' education and training to further advance their skills.
Josephine Murekezi, the president of Rwanda Midwives association hailed the government's initiative to increase the number of midwifery schools affiliated to the University of Rwanda.
Since the inception of the first midwifery school in 1997, the number of midwives have scaled up, rising from five in 1995 to the current 2,142, according to the midwives' association.
Murekezi nonetheless held concerns over the recent decrease in number of students enrolling for the profession.
"The number of admitted students in the bachelor's science with honours in midwifery has decreased, hence a decreased investment in midwifery," she said.
Mathias Gikwerere, a maternal health and midwifery officer at United Nations Population Fund, said that the current milestones are a result of several initiatives to boost the number of competent midwives.
What needs to be done is to continue strengthening midwifery education, regulations and associations, he highlighted, adding that organisations like UNFPA have provided scholarships to midwifery lecturers to pursue Master's and PhD programs in preparation of the upcoming launch of the first Master's Program in Midwifery at the University of Rwanda.
"The UN agency has also supported the University of Rwanda to conduct research to explore the use of blended learning in nursing and midwifery in order to ensure continuity of midwifery education amidst the Covid-19 pandemic," Gikwerere added.
Offering her remarks, Mercy Mungai UNFPA Deputy Representative, commended the tireless work of the midwives of safeguarding the health and well-being of women and babies across the world, and promised more support from her institution.
"We are also developing innovative remote training solutions for midwives and will continue supporting the scale up of the mobile learning project to ensure continuous professional development and capacity building of in-service midwives even amidst the Covid-19 pandemic," she concluded.
According to the 2015 'Trends in Maternal Mortality' report, a woman in Rwanda has a 1 in 85 chance of dying of pregnancy-related causes in her lifetime.
The State of the World Midwifery report 2021 highlights that an increase of investments in midwives could reduce maternal mortality by 67 per cent. In Rwanda, that would entail saving 560 mothers per year.
The report also adds that the roles of the midwives are not limited to expectant mothers, but also providing family planning services, counselling, sexual and reproductive health information, antenatal care, and help to combat HIV among others.