Sunday 5th May marked the International Day of the Midwife, an opportunity to recognise and reflect on the crucial role midwives and birth attendants play in supporting mothers through pregnancy and making childbirth safer.
With Mothers’ Day coming up this Sunday 12th May, there is no better time to pay tribute to all the amazing, dedicated people who work tirelessly to improve maternal health for all women, all over the world.
Most maternal deaths (99%) occur in developing countries, and more than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, according to World Health Organization statistics.
Working in this region, we are all too familiar with the disparities that exist in terms of access to basic health services. The nomadic pastoralist communities who live in sparsely-populated areas of Ethiopia and Kenya are among those often excluded – they are marginalised as a result of their remote location and way of life.
As we pay tribute to midwives around the world, and the life-saving work they do, it’s important to also consider women who don’t deliver in hospitals or have access to skilled midwifery services.
In the nomadic pastoralist communities The Road Less Travelled works with, more than 90 per cent of women give birth at home. The project is working to improve understanding and links between traditional birthing practices and health facilities, and to increase the rates of skilled birth attendance within these communities.
We recognise that improved maternal and child health outcomes cannot be achieved through health interventions alone. The project uses a holistic approach to address interconnected issues such as education and literacy, as well as improving access to water, food security and livelihoods.
These initiatives were identified, and are now being led, by members of the Afar, Maasai and Samburu pastoralist communities – with support from our project partners, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association and Mothers’ Union.
You can learn more about these initiatives at The Road Less Travelled photographic exhibition, on now in Melbourne and coming soon to Sydney.