Protecting midwives to keep women and babies safe amid COVID-19 pandemic

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, April 7, 2020

In observation of World Health Day, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has recognised the role of midwives even as the world faces the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has already infected more than a million people worldwide.

In a statement today, UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, said midwives are central to sexual and reproductive healthcare.

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UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem

Their life-saving skills go far beyond delivering babies; midwives educate, empower and enable women to lead healthy lives and to exercise their right to sexual and reproductive health.

Dr. Kanem noted that these health professionals are “unsung heroes working on the frontlines in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Midwives risk their own lives to save those of pregnant women and newborns. They ensure safe and healthy pregnancies, taking every precaution to protect the women they serve, she said.

“Midwives play a critical role in responding to public health emergencies like COVID-19. They are essential to the strong, resilient health systems we need to survive the coronavirus. It is imperative not to jeopardize essential sexual and reproductive health services by diverting midwives to serve as emergency personnel.”

According to Dr. Kanem, midwives who serve patients outside of hospitals are crucial to maintaining the safe distancing measures necessary to curb the spread of the disease. The more midwives who are ready to visit the homes of pregnant women in rural communities or who can offer phone-based antenatal and post-natal care, then the more people able to avoid transmitting or becoming infected by the coronavirus.

“While the novel coronavirus sweeps the world, including many developing countries with fragile health systems, women continue to get pregnant and give birth. Midwives are essential to ensure safe pregnancies and births for everyone, everywhere. They also provide the information and contraceptive counselling that women and young people need, even in times of crisis,” Dr. Kanem stated.

She highlighted that as frontline health workers, midwives are particularly vulnerable to the virus. That means pregnant women and babies are at risk, too.

Therefore, Dr. Kanem said urgent action must be put in place to protect midwives; this includes providing all midwives with the same personal protective equipment that other front-line health workers use to insulate themselves from contagion.

With UNFPA support, midwives in hard-hit countries are working round the clock to provide care for women and babies.

“Together with the World Health Organization and other partners, UNFPA stands with the world’s midwives, today and every day,” Dr. Kanem said.

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Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.