News

Roving midwives of Bangladesh

13 November 2020

“I know that this pandemic is very dangerous for all of us, but pregnant women are at exceptionally high risk due to limited access to services. As midwives, we are part of the battle against COVID-19 and together we will win it”, says Sarmin Akter, a midwife currently serving in the Sunamganj district in Bangladesh.

Midwives are true heroes. While access to quality, life-saving maternal health services is less accessible due to COVID-19, Sarmin fearlessly continues to report to work and perform safe deliveries for pregnant women in communities where it is most needed. 

Her journey is not an easy one. Not only has it meant risking her own health and security for others, but it also means being far from her loved ones.

“I have had to move far away from my family to serve as a roving midwife. But even after going through so much, I feel fulfilled. I feel like a brave warrior, who has not shielded away from my responsibilities!”, she proudly explains.

 

Sarmin is one of over 300 midwives that are part of the roving midwife team; an initiative introduced by the Directorate General of Health Service (DGHS) and UNFPA, as part of the Bangladesh national response to COVID-19. Through the initiative, supported by Sweden, FCDO, and the World Bank, midwives are deployed to districts that require maternal health care services the most, leaving no one behind.

Since May 2020, the roving midwives team have worked in over 30 rural and urban health facilities, ensuring that preventable maternal deaths and maternal health complications do not increase among vulnerable communities during the pandemic. 

In just a few months, the results of the roaming midwives initiative have been very successful.

In Sunamganj district alone, there has been a 53% increase in deliveries within the 12 health facilities and 4 maternity homes where roaming midwives, including Sarmin, are deployed. 

Since the start of the initiative, midwives have gradually been performing more deliveries than usual, with a 15% increase since pre-COVID-19. This indicates the demand for provision and accessibility of quality maternal healthcare and professional midwifery services, with more women accessing professional maternal healthcare services where it is available. 

Marking the one year anniversary since the Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), UNFPA continues to support the Government of Bangladesh, together with our partners, in realizing the national commitments, which includes reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to family planning. 

While COVID-19 has imposed new challenges to achieving this goal, innovative initiatives such as the Roving Midwives programme ensure the gains made in women’s and girl’s empowerment are not lost due to the pandemic -- and with dedicated midwives such as Sarmin, the road ahead seems less steeper.

“All my future plans revolve around this profession. Whenever I hand over a healthy newborn to a mother, seeing the smiles on the faces of her and her family gives me a peace of mind,” says Sarmin with immense joy.

UNFPA continues to support midwives and innovative programmes to ensure zero preventable maternal deaths in Bangladesh, despite COVID-19.