Every year, Rwandan Schools of Nursing and Midwifery train an estimated 250 midwives who practice to contribute to the midwifery workforce gap, according to the Rwanda Association of Midwives.
As Rwanda joins the rest of the world today to celebrate the International Day of the Midwife, there is still a need for more midwives.
Currently the ratio stands at one midwife per 44,584 pregnant women in Rwanda according to information from Rwanda’s Ministry of Health.
The target however is to have one midwife per 25,000 by 2017.
According to a recent interview with Josephine Murekezi, the Chairperson of the Rwanda Midwives Association, only 500 midwives are registered with the Nursing Council yet the number of women giving birth in health facilities is increasing.
Although the number of Midwives may seem small, the work of Midwives has helped reduce the maternal mortality rate drastically placing Rwanda as one of the few African nations that is on target to meeting the Millennium Development goals for 2015.
The 2010 Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (RDHS) indicates that the percentage of babies delivered in conventional health facilities has substantially increased to 69 percent, up from 52 in 2007-2008.
The history of Midwifery in Rwanda illustrates the transition from traditional birth attendants to a system of fully trained professional midwives.
According to the survey , 10 percent of women giving birth received no assistance, 21 percent were assisted by untrained persons (two percent by nonqualified health workers, three percent by traditional birth attendants and 16 percent by relatives or other persons).
Agatha Mutamba, a midwife at the Rwanda Military Hospital called upon more women and even men to enroll for midwifery studies.
“I have helped a number of women to give birth and there is nothing that gives me greater satisfaction at my job like helping a mother deliver safely and seeing her and her baby in good health. Midwives should love their job and know that they play a great job in our communities,” she said.
Mutamba also called upon government to keep providing more skills development and comprehensive courses that will help them improve their work. She is currently pursuing further studies in Kenya as well.
Pandora Hardtman, from the University of Illinois Chicago, who is on Human Resource for Health Team, said that during the Celebration of International Day of the Midwife, the Respectful Maternity Care Campaign will be launched to educate women about the Seven Rights of the Childbearing Woman.
The rights include freedom from harm and ill treatment, right to information, informed consent and refusal and respect for choices and preferences, including the right to companionship of choice wherever possible, confidentiality, privacy, dignity, respect and equality.
Other rights include freedom from discrimination, equitable care, right to timely healthcare and to the highest attainable level of health, liberty, autonomy, self-determination, and freedom from coercion.
In 1997, the Government of Rwanda approved studies at Kigali Health Institute that included A1 midwifery course which continues to this day.
In 2007, five schools of nursing and midwifery were opened at Kagbayi, Kibungo, Byumba, Rwamagana and Nyagatare. Each school enrolled 20 students for A1 midwifery studies and the numbers have continued to increase.
Today, three cohorts of midwives have graduates from each of the above mentioned institutions. The National Council for Nurses and Midwives reports over 250 Midwives successfully completing licensing examination and becoming eligible to enter the National Registry of Nurse and Midwives this year.
To ensure universal coverage for maternity care an estimated 350,000 extra midwives are needed worldwide.