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UNFPA, Swedish Embassy award best performing midwives

14 December 2017
UNFPA Representative Alain Sibenaler (R) joins Ambassador Per Lindgarde (2nd R) and state Minister for Health Hon. Sarah Opendi (in grey suit) to congratulate one of the award winners. PHOTO: UNFPA/Martha Songa

At a colourful event hosted by His Excellency Per Lindgarde the Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda, eleven midwives from various regions of Uganda received awards for excellence in midwifery practice. The awards were handed over to the midwives by State Minister for Health Sarah Opendi, His Excellency Per Lindgarde and UNFPA Representative Mr. Alain Sibenaler.

The awards, organised in partnership with UNFPA and the Ministry of Health, are a follow up to the global campaign midwives4all launched in 2015 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sweden to highlight the important role midwives play in maternal health.  The award recipients were selected following a nationwide nomination process; submissions were then reviewed by committees established at district, regional and national level.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Alain Sibenaler the UNFPA Representative appreciated the eleven midwives for their dedication, noting that all over the country many midwives work long hours to save the lives of mothers and babies.

His statement was echoed by Sr. Venaranda Musaasizi from Rukiga district, one of the award recipients who acknowledged that midwives are sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do. “At one point, I was delivering over 70 babies a month and that is a lot of work. But the fact that no mother has ever lost her life while in my hands is what inspires me to keep going,” she said before receiving her award.  

Mr. Sibenaler also appreciated the Government of Sweden for supporting UNFPA to establish a midwifery sponsorship scheme.  “Since 2010, together, we have trained 549 midwives, some of whom have been recruited to serve especially in hard- to -reach districts,” he said. 

Mr. Sibenaler noted that while progress has been made in training midwives the recruitment was still lagging behind. As a result, the country still has a shortage of midwives: A Ugandan midwife delivers between 350 – 500 babies a year, way over the WHO recommendation of 175 deliveries per midwife.

 “Even though we have made a lot of headway with support from the Government of Sweden in training midwives, we still have gaps in recruitment. Many of the trained midwives are still not absorbed by the districts,” he said.

He appealed to the Ministry of Health to prioritise recruitment and retention of the trained midwives by increasing the wage bill to allow preferential recruitment of midwives, especially for underserved districts. His Excellency Per Lingarde also appealed for more efforts to fight maternal mortality by ensuring that more midwifes are trained and recruited in the areas where they are needed the most.

He also highlighted the need to tackle gender inequality and lack of male involvement in maternal health. “We must challenge the traditional gender norms and we must engage men in maternal health by mobilizing fathers, husbands and brothers to support and encourage women to go for antenatal care and give birth in a health facility,” he said. 

- Written by Martha Songa