A recent study by White Ribbon Alliance for safe motherhood has discovered an acute shortage of midwives in health facilities across the country with a total of only 3233 midwives.
When presenting the preliminary findings at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe on Thursday, local White Ribbon Alliance Board Chairperson, Lennie Adeline Kamwendo called the findings shocking.
Professor Maurine Chirwa of Prime Health Consulting which carried out the study said serving midwives were below World Health Organization (WHO) recommended standards.
“The recommended WHO standard is one midwife for every one hundred seventy five (175) child bearing women. However, our survey has found that for a district like Mangochi with a population of 803,602, which has 103 midwives, is one midwife for every 7801 child bearing women which are not adequate to provide quality midwifery services,” she said.
Likoma Island with a population of 10,000 people has the lowest ratio with one midwife for every 803 child bearing women though it is also below the required WHO standard.
The survey also found that at some facilities, there are some midwives who are as old as 76 years old though, the average age of midwives was 35.
The findings further show that the shortages increase workload for the midwives with an average of 58.2 hours per week per midwife against 40 normal working hours per week.
On a positive note, the study found that more midwives are working in the rural areas and are more motivated to do their work as they felt they were helping the community.
Kamwendo called for an increase in the number of midwives to up to 20,000 to improve service delivery and also reduce the burden on existing midwives and hence improve their working conditions.
She further asked for financial and non-financial incentives for the midwives like establishing positions for midwives among others.
The survey was conducted in all districts in the country in collaboration with District Nursing Officers (DNO) who validated the figures.
Malawi has hard a serious shortage of health workers for years.
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