“We want to live in a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every girl and woman is treated with the dignity and respect she deserves.”

– Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

On May 3, parliamentarians, midwives and members of the Canadian public gathered to celebrate International Day of the Midwife and the impact of the Government of Canada funded Midwives Save Lives (MSL) project at an event hosted by MP Mona Fortier, Ottawa-Vanier, CUSO International and the Canadian Association of Midwives.

Tonia Occhionero (Executive Director, CAM) and Mona Fortier (MP, Ottawa-Vanier)

As they arrived, guests received one of five birth scenarios from the four MSL project countries and northern Canada.  Inspired by true stories, the scenarios illustrated some of the major challenges faced by women in Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania or Canada, such as inadequate training for midwives resulting in low skill levels, difficultly accessing  family planning services and a lack of respectful and culturally sensitive care available in their communities. Each scenario illustrated that well-trained, well-supported and properly regulated midwives were key to overcoming these challenges and to improving reproductive health outcomes.

MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes fully embraced her scenario and successfully “gave birth” to undiagnosed twins with the help of Tanzanian midwife Eucabeth Auma Oyiengo.  Having participated in the Midwives’ Emergency Skills Training (MEST) course delivered as part of the MSL project, Eucabeth was able to manage this potentially life-threatening emergency with confidence. Ms Caesar-Chavannes recognized the key role of midwives in strengthening health systems and providing training in low-resource settings.

(L-R) Mona Fortier (MP Ottawa-Vanier), Katrina Kilroy, RM (President, CAM) and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Celina Caesar-Chavannes (MP, Whitby

Ms Auma Oyiengo shared with the crowd about how the skills she learned at the MEST training helped her save the life of a mother who arrived at her clinic with a retained placenta in November 2017. She explained that before she received MEST training, she would refer all such cases to the district hospital.  A few years ago, a woman with a retained placenta died on the way to the hospital, during the referral. “This time,” she said, “I knew how to manage the emergency.” Ms Auma Oyiengo practiced the manoeuvres she had learned at the MEST training and within two hours, the bleeding had completely stopped and the woman and her baby were fine. Since the project started there has been a 10% reduction in maternal deaths in the project regions in Tanzania.

Sylvie Miedinger RM and Eucabeth Auma Oyiengo (midwife, Tanzania) demonstrate emergency skills training to guests at the reception.

The second African midwife to speak was Aurélie Théthé Lukusa from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  She shared how a midwifery-specific emergency skills training, developed and rolled out as part of the MSL project, has helped 350 midwives to better manage life-threatening emergencies. In a country where 846/100,000 women die giving birth (Canada’s rate is 12/100,000), improving the clinical skills of midwives is essential to ending this maternal health crisis.

Aurélie Théthé Lukusa (midwife, Democratic Republic of Congo)

Both midwives called on the Government of Canada to continue investing in reproductive health projects in Tanzania, DRC and countries with high maternal and neonatal death rates.

Midwives Save Lives is funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, and is led by Cuso International in partnership with Canadian Association of Midwives and local midwifery associations in Benin, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.

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