Lusaka, Zambia – Midwives in Zambia – the health care providers who deliver the majority of babies born in hospitals and clinics – have organized a professional association to help promote their role in maternal and child health and improve the quality of care for women and their families.
The Midwives Association of Zambia (MAZ), now 200 members strong, has won the support of health care leaders in the southern African country, including its First Lady, Dr. Christine Kaseba. Members of the organization attended the recent meeting of the East, Central and Southern African College of Nursing in Mauritius.
“MAZ is growing fast in terms of strengthening midwifery as it is showing fruits towards attainment of MDGs [Millennium Development Goals],” says Deliwe Nyathikazi, a representative of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) for east, central and southern Africa. “MAZ, together with partners, will make a difference in less than three years.”
With support from UNFPA and Jhpiego, Zambian midwives began meeting in 2010 to form a professional organization to give them a stronger voice in health care decision-making. Jhpiego has supported the midwifery association as part of its work in building the capacity of midwives.
Jhpiego has been a presence in the country since 1999, working in partnership with the government to implement programs in HIV/AIDS/TB/sexually transmitted infections, family planning, emergency obstetric and newborn care, infection prevention, pre-service education and male circumcision.
Jemima Dennis-Antwi, ICM Regional Midwifery Advisor for Anglophone Africa, began holding discussions with the Zambia Union of Nurses Organization as early as 2009 to gain their support for a professional organization for midwives.
“The coming of MAZ is a dream come true as it is a mustard seed that has born fruits,” says Dennis-Antwi. “MAZ has potential to grow into a formidable midwifery force if it will nurture itself through strong leadership, innovation, good professional relationships, building of trust internally and externally.”
During celebrations of the International Day of the Midwife last year, the nursing and midwifery associations jointly marked the occasion. The midwives’ group has affiliated with the American College of Nurse-Midwives as part of a mentoring process, and has the support of ICM.
In one of their first organized events, midwifery association members volunteered their time in four health centers in Lusaka, namely, Kanyama, Chawama, Chongwe and Chipata, and at the labor ward at the University Teaching Hospital, where they provided prenatal, intra- and postpartum care, assisted with family planning services, and offered couples counseling and blood testing for HIV/AIDS.
The reputation of the young association is gaining ground. The Lusaka Apex Medical University, a private institution, has asked MAZ to develop a proposal to create a midwifery department at the school – an expression of confidence in the capacity of Zambia’s midwives.