UNFPA celebrates the role of midwives in Lesotho



MASERU — Midwives often serve as the first responders in communities affected by climate-related disasters or conflicts, playing a pivotal role in preventing maternal deaths. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) highlighted the crucial impact of midwives in its press statement for the International Day of the Midwife. The statement shows that the climate crisis poses specific risks to women and girls, including increased pregnancy complications and exacerbated maternal health outcomes such as premature births and miscarriages.

This year’s International Day of the Midwife was celebrated on May 5 under the theme “Midwives: A Vital Climate Solution.” It sheds light on the critical intersection of maternal health and climate change. UNFPA representative to Lesotho Innocent Modisaotsile said midwives are indispensable not only during childbirth but also in addressing factors contributing to maternal mortality.

He emphasised the critical role of midwives, whose expertise and dedication are vital for ensuring safe deliveries and providing essential maternal and new-born care services. He noted that the countries that are most at risk from climate change often have high vulnerabilities for women and girls, including preventable maternal deaths, child marriage, and gender-based violence.

“Climate change and disasters severely disrupt access to essential family planning, safe childbirth, and protection services. With the increasing frequency of heat waves, floods, and other natural disasters, women and babies are disproportionately suffering,” Modisaotsile said. He acknowledged that midwives, with their specialised skills and knowledge in maternal and new-born care, are uniquely equipped to counter these impacts and enhance community resilience.

“There have been numerous instances where impassable roads, overflowing rivers, and collapsed bridges prevent access to crucial health services. In such scenarios, midwives frequently act as frontline responders, offering critical care and support to safeguard the health and well-being of mothers and babies,” he said. On International Midwifery Day, UNFPA recognises the essential role of midwives in addressing climate-related health challenges.

The organisation commends midwives for their dedication, resilience, and commitment to providing quality care under the most challenging circumstances. Modisaotsile stressed the importance of ongoing support and investment in midwifery as a fundamental component of maternal and new-born health, particularly in light of the changing climate.

“Midwives are crucial when fully utilised and available in sufficient numbers, they can provide 90 percent of all essential sexual, reproductive, maternal, and new-born health services,” he said. The daily contributions of midwives to saving lives and promoting community health and well-being are also celebrated. “We recognise and honour the invaluable contributions of midwives in the Kingdom of Lesotho, especially given the maternal health challenges the country faces,” he noted.

Sister ’Mabokang Damane Ntsie, the nurse in charge at Molikaliko Health Centre in Mokhotlong, highlighted the extraordinary contributions of midwives on this special day. She described the challenging journey many women undertake to reach the clinic, often navigating meandering gravel roads and crossing rivers — a trip that can take more than four hours.

“There have been times when women delivered babies while en-route to the health centre. Moreover, extreme weather conditions sometimes make the roads impassable, preventing women from reaching the clinic. To overcome these barriers, our clinic frequently provides outreach services, enabling women to access healthcare,” Ntsie said.

With a maternal mortality ratio of 566 deaths per 100,000 live births, the urgent need to address these challenges is clear. UNFPA research indicates that increasing midwife coverage by 25 percent by 2035 could prevent 40 percent of maternal and neonatal deaths and over a quarter of stillbirths. UNFPA commits to advancing midwifery by enhancing the quality of education, strengthening regulations, and supporting robust national midwife associations. As Lesotho celebrates 200 years of its existence, UNFPA honours the critical role of midwives in ensuring the health and well-being of women and babies across the nation.

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