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“The journey of being a midwife comes with pains and pleasures, the yin and yang of each woman’s pregnancy. I want to be there to support pregnant women in Cox’s Bazar, whether they be from the refugee camps or the host community.”

24-year-old Kalpana Ray has been serving as UNFPA’s Midwife Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar since February 2022. Her inspiration for becoming a midwife stemmed from her mother who had endured labour complications when she was expecting Kalpana.

“I remember how my mum used to recount stories of her four pregnancies,“ she says. “She always had traditional birth attendants to help her with the delivery. The hospitals were all located far away, the roads were in bad condition and transportation was not provided to reach the health centers.”

The stories were permanently imprinted in Kalpana’s mind and she felt destined to become a midwife: “I enrolled in the Dhaka Nursing College and after 3 years, I started performing my duty in my home district Panchagarh. Later, I received the opportunity to work for UNFPA in the refugee camps and host communities in Cox’s Bazar. It was a dream come true!”


The challenges her mother had faced during her deliveries inspired 24-year old Kalpana to become a midwife. Photo: Fahima Tajrin/UNFPA

After serving in Cox’s Bazar for just 7 months, Kalpana applied for the Midwife Coordinator’s position and got it. Her dedication to improve her skills stemmed from the colleagues she was working with in Cox’s Bazar:

“My role models came from UNFPA’s Midwifery Mentorship Programme. Three international midwife mentors are serving with us here in Cox’s Bazar and they really help us achieve our full potential. They are currently training three local midwife coordinators so we can provide better quality care to the mothers,” Kalpana explains enthusiastically.

The responsibility that comes with being a midwife coordinator is significant. “As midwife coordinators, it is our role to observe, guide and supervise 12 midwife supervisors. The supervisors in turn look after all 213 midwives working in the 31 UNFPA-supported health facilities and 39 Women Friendly Spaces in both the camps and host communities,” Kalpana explains.

The results that the mentorship programme has yielded in Cox’s Bazar have been enormous. After a new group of midwives were deployed to Cox’s Bazar in 2021 and received mentoring from UNFPA, the percentage of perinatal deaths in the UNFPA-supported facilities dropped from 7% to 4.8% between June 2021 – March 2022.

UNFPA currently supports a total of 213 midwives in the Rohingya camps and surrounding host communities in Cox's Bazar. Photo: Fahima Tajrin/UNFPA.


Furthermore, the International Confederation of Midwives estimates that in a world with universal coverage of midwife-delivered interventions, 67 % of maternal deaths, 64 % of neonatal deaths and 65 % of stillbirths could be prevented. This would mean over 4.3 million lives saved annually.


That is why each year on May 5, the world celebrates International Day of the Midwife to draw attention to the life-saving work performed by midwives. Celebrations are also set to take place in the Rohingya refugee camps and surrounding host communities in Cox’s Bazar.

“This year, we are planning a great celebration with mothers from both the refugee camps and host communities. I will spend this special day shedding light on the important role of midwives in Bangladesh and celebrating the joy of new lives being delivered into the world!” Kalpana exclaims with a big smile on her face.