By Chunmei Li
Director of Worldwide Corporate Contributions
Johnson & Johnson
The baby’s name was Michael. His mother, Proshe, was one of the “lucky” ones able to get to a clinic to give birth to her child.
But at the moment of birth, at the split second when the room should have been filled with the sound of Michael’s first cry, the room was silent. He wasn’t breathing. After a few attempts, the doctor, having experienced this scenario probably hundreds of times before, issued an order to stop, and left the room.
But Michael was a fighter, and Eva, the midwife who attended his birth, had been trained to deal with birth asphyxia. The doctor left the room, and Eva sprung into action to make one more try.
The next day, the doctor came back to the hospital and saw Proshe, happy and breastfeeding her baby. Confused, he asked what happened. He was told that Eva had resuscitated the baby, and that Michael was indeed healthy and well. A trained midwife had saved this child, sending a family home to celebrate a new life. Without access to skilled care, this family would have otherwise gone home to mourn.
A well-trained midwife like Eva can provide as much as 87% of the essential care needed for mothers and newborns. But at the moment, only four of 73 “Countdown” countries – those with the highest maternal, newborn, and child mortality rates – have enough midwives trained to meet the need and deliver essential interventions for sexual, reproductive, maternal, and newborn health. This inequity between countries is something that must be addressed so that all women and newborns, no matter where they live, have the chance at life they deserve.
Midwives are heroes – working long hours in what can be an exhausting and thankless job. Many, particularly in low-resource settings, report that they are treated badly. Still, they show up for work, often in difficult environments, for little or no pay, working diligently and tirelessly to ensure that women and newborns get the care they need. And even though research has shown that investing in midwives can yield a 16-fold return, the investments have yet to be made a priority in far too many places around the world.
Midwives matter. And at Johnson & Johnson, we are proud to stand by their side, partnering with organizations such as Save the Children and the International Confederation of Midwives to train and enhance midwives’ skills as they develop throughout their careers. More support to ensure midwives can provide the 46 proven, essential interventions, such as neonatal resuscitation and kangaroo mother care means healthy women and families.
May 5 marks International Day of the Midwife, a moment to not only stop and honor midwives for the care they provide – but to add our voices to the call to ensure that they get the care and respect they deserve.