Midwives are women, mothers, who have devoted their life providing safe motherhood to other women and mothers. Access to skilled care from a trained midwife during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery is key to saving a mother’s life and that of her child.
Every year in Africa, more than 200.000 mothers die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth; every year 1,5 million African children are left without a mother.
A mother's death is a human tragedy, affecting families and communities. A great many of these deaths are preventable, when women have access to quality prevention, diagnostic, and treatment services, when pregnancy and childbirth are attended by skilled health professionals.
Quality midwifery services that are coordinated and integrated within communities and within the health system ensure that essential care can be provided throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond. Midwifery services also facilitate referrals of mothers and newborns from the home or health center to the hospital and to the care of obstetricians, pediatricians and other specialists when required. Midwives, who are overwhelmingly women, typically endure low status, poor pay and a lack of support despite the enormous responsibility they bear.
When they are properly trained, empowered and supported, midwives in the community offer the most cost-effective and high-quality path to universal access to maternal health care. In particular, countries with high rates of maternal mortality need assistance to recruit, train and support professional midwives. Midwives often introduce women to the health system and ensure that women and their babies receive a continuum of skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the important days and weeks after birth. Midwives provide to protect the health of the mother and baby providing pre-pregnancy advice and health education, offering general health information, including reproductive health care and family planning, assisting women to successfully breastfeed.
In South Omo, Ethiopia, more than 90% of women don’t have access to skilled health care while giving birth. Lack of access to basic health care is a key reason why the maternal death rate is still so high in Ethiopia (maternal mortality was 350 per 100,000 live births in 2010).
The African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) Canada is working to improve mother and child health in South Omo, a remote region home to pastoralist (also known as nomadic) and semi-pastoralist communities. With an approximate population of 630,000, the region is served by only three doctors and one single hospital. Poor roads combined with an almost impassable terrain make it very difficult for people to reach health services, leading to an increase in preventable illness and life-threatening disease.
AMREF Canada has designed a comprehensive maternal and child health initiative so that pregnant women, newborns and children in South Omo have the means to respond to the threat of illness, disease and death and lead healthy, productive lives. Starting in 2011 and over a three year period, the program is increasing the number of skilled health care workers and health care facilities in the area, strengthening laboratory services and providing education and treatment to combat communicable diseases and malnutrition which often affect pregnant women and newborns.
“Powerful images tell stories unlike any other medium can. And, ‘powerful’ is an understatement when it comes to Paolo Patruno’s photographs.
Collaborating with Paolo to document our mother and child health project in South Omo, Ethiopia is one of the best decisions we’ve made.
His photographs capture the heart of our work, communicating at once both the struggles and the hope of one of the most important issues facing African communities today. Paolo’s passion for maternal health and his experience photographing its highs and lows made him a natural partner for AMREF, whose mandate is to show how African communities are at the centre of transforming lives for generations to come.
Most importantly for us, Paolo showed tremendous respect for all of the mothers, babies, nurses, midwives, doctors and community members he photographed.”
— Jennifer Foulds. Communications and PR Director, AMREF Canada