Finding Answers

Former Senator

It isn’t surprising that in the Philippines, where six to seven out of every 10 impoverished Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor, the only healthcare professional ever encountered by the rural poor is the midwife or “komadrona.”

Tasked to care for and assist mother and child during pregnancy, birth and postnatal period, the midwife is truly a hero in areas where they are the only health care workers the poor can access. As such, they play multiple health care roles where there is severe shortage of doctors and nurses.

Yet, despite their crucial role in community health where they are often seen as “lifelines” for people in dire need, their dedication seems to be taken for granted. This was quite obvious when Midwifery Week came and went this October.

Except for some online activities last Oct. 7-8 by the Philippine League of Government and Private Midwives Inc. (PLGPMI)  for the 2021 Midwifery Week Celebration with the theme “The Midwives Are Truly Worth Investing For,” nothing else of significance transpired to give due recognition to this critical sector of health frontliners.

But amid the apparent lack of widespread effort to make people aware of the critical role of the “komadrona” in the Philippines, this year’s theme is exactly right: The Midwifery profession is worth investing for.

As much as 4.3 million lives per year worldwide could be saved by investing in midwife-led interventions, according to a 2020 study by the United Nations Population Fund, World Health Organization, and the International Confederation of Midwives.

“About two-thirds of maternal deaths, newborn deaths and stillbirths could be prevented by 2035 if the current level of care by professional midwives educated and regulated to international standards was scaled up to provide universal access,” the WHO said about the study. “These findings should leave no doubt in the minds of ministers of health, education and finance that midwife-led interventions have the potential to save the lives of women and their newborns at a vast scale.”

In the Philippines, around 2,600 women were dying yearly due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth even before the pandemic, a statement of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) said.

With the raging pandemic, UPPI said “pregnant women’s utilization of facilities for ante-natal check-up and delivery is declining because of service disruption, difficulty in commuting, and their fear of contracting COVID-19.”  As a result, it warned that maternal mortality cases can rise by 26 percent or up to 670 additional deaths from the pre-pandemic level.

As to child deaths, the UNICEF said around 95 child deaths occur every day in the Philippines due to undernutrition.

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life from conception up to two years are critical in establishing a child’s foundation for physical growth and brain development. Yet infants are not fed well and are therefore not thriving. Only a third of babies are exclusively breastfed during the first six months,” the UNICEF said.

Amid the dire statistics, there’s no doubt that midwives “are truly worth investing for.”