Members of the National Council of Nurses and Midwives (NCNM) met in Kigali yesterday to elect a new board.
The ministerial decree establishing this board is long overdue given the critical role played by the midwives in our society.
While many would not ordinarily attach much importance to the role a midwife plays, tradition has it that they are an important component in the overall provision of Primary Health Care (PHC).
After a professional gynecologist, the crucial role a midwife plays in the birth process can never be underestimated.
Mothers and their newborn babies need the close attention of a midwife, not just in case of complications, but that extra care to ensure their safety.
This is a delicate period for both the mother and baby, in which they need close supervision. Any small mistake can be fatal.
Considering the alarming rate at which babies and mothers die at birth, there is no doubt that with serious midwives, many of the unfortunate deaths can be prevented. The midwives actually qualify to be lifesavers.
Having an elected institution means that there will be regulatory measures in place on the day-to-day provision of midwife services, monitoring how they execute their work, and ensuring that they adhere to professional standards.
However, the new NCNM board has the task of ensuring that more midwives are trained, and deployed country-wide, to decrease their patient ratio rate.
It should be mandatory for expecting mothers to access the services of a midwife, even more so in remote parts of the country where professional doctors are hard to come by.
Even those women who feel qualified enough to deliver at home without a professional midwife, should be sensitized on the risks involved and the benefits available when professional midwife services are used.
Midwifery is not an exclusive traditional African practice but one that is recognized in international maternity health care.
According to the World Health Organisation, “The midwife is recognised as a responsible and accountable professional who works in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period.”
The ministry of Health has gone a step further in ensuring that the National Council of Nurses and Midwives (NCNM), is insitutionalised, the next step is to embark on a nation-wide campaign on the importance of midwives and provision of professional services by the midwives.