The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has announced plans to partner with the Rwanda Association of Midwives (RAM) to set up the country’s first-ever midwifery center of excellence. The announcement was made by UNFPA Country Representative, Kwabena Asante-Ntiamoah, on Friday May 5, during celebrations to observe the International Day of the Midwife. Asante-Ntiamoah told the midwives and other health sector stakeholders that the center is part of UNFPA’s plan to encourage the Rwanda Association of Midwives (RAM) to think big and to look at the bigger picture. “The government has a vision to build a middle and later, high income country within a certain period. This means that midwives have a role to play. Is this going to make us dream big? Are we going to look at the big picture? UNFPA is planning to work with RAM in the coming years. We want to create a midwifery center of excellence and that’s where we are going to put our focus,” he said. He noted that the plan to create the midwifery center of excellence will require combined efforts from all the stakeholders within the country’s health sector. He pledged UNFPA’s support to midwives in key focus areas including strengthening competency-based midwifery training; raising midwives' voices through strengthening midwifery associations; and improved service delivery. Critical need of midwives The Chief Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Theophile Dushime, commended the midwives for their contribution to improving the country’s indicators in relation to neonatal and mortality rates. Dushime called for more collaboration with senior midwives, development partners and civil society organisation in support of the midwifery profession especially in the skills enhancement and service delivery areas. He said that although there is a general shortage of health professionals, the challenge is worse in the midwifery department. “There is one or two midwives at each health center, but we must significantly improve this number if we want to deliver better quality services. The government has committed its support to the health sector, and we are counting on our stakeholders like yourselves to achieve these targets in coming years,” he said. The President of Rwanda Midwives Association, Josephine Murekezi, said that midwives not only support pregnant women to make informed decisions that enable positive outcomes for themselves and their babies, but are also lending their knowledge to education related institutions of learning. “We are proud to share the knowledge. We have had many sessions with education institutions where we supported them to add some topics in the school curriculum. Today, methods on helping mothers and babies to survive is among the topics in the curriculum,” she said. Murekezi said that as a result, this topic was added among the credits that midwives need to renew their licenses. She appealed to the midwives to ensure professionalism in their work, follow the code of ethics and to be open to continuous learning. “The more you learn, the fewer mistakes you are likely to make. As midwives, this helps us to refresh the knowledge that we have. Remember that no woman should die while giving life but sometimes matters are out of our hands. However, where we are able to ensure positive outcomes, let’s be focused on excellent service delivery,” she said. The Executive Director of Health Development Initiative (HDI), Dr. Aflodis Kagaba, noted that midwives are often seen as advocates for women's health and well-being and are a critical component of the healthcare system. Besides being trained to identify and manage complications during pregnancy and childbirth, he said, their work is crucial in ensuring that the people they serve are provided with the right information, support, and guidance to make informed decisions for safe and positive birth experiences. “Different studies have associated midwifery care with lower rates of caesarean sections, preterm birth, and infant mortality. By providing access to quality maternal health care, midwives greatly contribute to the deduction of preventable pregnancy and childbirth deaths. There is no doubt that midwives’ community and healthy system-advocacy is essential,” he said. About the midwifery centers of excellence Although Asante-Ntiamoah did not go into details about the planned midwifery center of excellence, such centers are commended for addressing shortages of skilled midwives, particularly in rural areas. The center can serve as a hub for training new midwives while providing ongoing support and education to practicing midwives. A midwifery center may also conduct research to generate new evidence and improve the quality of care provided to women and infants. Such research can include clinical trials, observational studies, and quality improvement initiatives to identify best practices, develop new interventions, and evaluate the effectiveness of existing interventions. The International Day of the Midwife celebrations were preceded by a Scientific Conference in which midwives discussed best practices, challenges, as well as received orientation from seniors who gave them refresher lessons on various aspects of midwifery.