Every pregnant woman deserves a safe delivery – even if she is living through a humanitarian crisis. Midwives can provide this care, saving lives in the process.
Midwives have also been critical to the health response, particularly the sexual and reproductive health and rights-related response supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its partners.
Significant investments in midwifery are essential if the world is to achieve our global target of zero preventable maternal mortality and newborn deaths. Midwives are, therefore, essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Karaliani Nagale Macanawai and Timaleti Moceivei are the two retired but currently licensed and registered Fijian midwives who are part of the twelve (12) retired midwives deployed by the UNFPA Pacific to the north of Fiji to work as facilitators in the Women Friendly Spaces (WFS) in response to the relief and recovery efforts for the communities who were severely affected by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Yasa and Ana. Communities in the areas worst hit by TC Yasa and Ana, particularly women and girls, have been benefiting from services provided by the WFS.
The Pacific needs more midwives like Karalaini and Timaleti. In March this year, Karalaini and Timaleti saved the life of a young mother while safely delivering a baby in an emergency with the help of their other colleagues at the Lekutu Health Centre in Bua. "We had to make it a safe delivery according to the health facilities and available equipment at the health center", Karaliani said. She said that after the successful delivery, the mother and baby were transferred to Labasa Hospital in an ambulance and were accompanied by a Paediatrician and a midwife. She added that the young mother was grateful to the midwives for assisting her and making sure that it was a safe delivery.
In addition, Timaleti highlighted that midwives have an essential role to play in preparing for and providing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in humanitarian settings due to their unique knowledge and skills, a position as frontline providers, and geographic and social proximity to the communities they serve.
Karalaini and Timaleti have worked with the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services for several years. They are currently serving the communities affected by the TC Yasa and TC Ana cyclone in the north with assistance from UNFPA Pacific, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, and support from the Government of Australia.
Karalaini stresses that the UNFPA Pacific has assisted her in scaling up skills and knowledge of nursing and midwifery. According to Karalaini, all women are precious and need to be supported by all means while being provided with proper health care to live a happy life.
Deploying senior Fijian midwives remain at the heart of the humanitarian response strategy in the Pacific.
“Fijian midwives have been central to our work in the Pacific, including those who have retired from formal services but who responded positively to our call for midwives to support UNFPA Pacific’s humanitarian efforts, in Fiji and other Pacific Island countries," Dr. Jennifer Butler, UNFPA Pacific Director and Representative said.
Dr. Bulter said UNFPA applauds the retired midwives generally who have had to work in challenging circumstances, geographical or otherwise, sacrificing time with their families to ensure a good beginning for newborns and their parents.
Well-trained and supported midwives working in communities are uniquely positioned to provide the compassionate, respectful, and culturally sensitive care a woman needs during pregnancy and childbirth. Midwifery is equally important for newborns during the critical first month of life and is a significant contribution to sexual and reproductive health in general.
On this International Day of the Midwife, we at UNFPA renew our commitment to working with our partners across the Pacific to strengthen midwifery skills and capacities.