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“The most momentous day in a century for midwives” – Toyin Saraki hails midwifery professionals as world marks International Day of the Midwife 2020; Launches ‘We Must Applaud Midwives with WASH’ campaign

Toyin Saraki has hailed International Day of the Midwife, marked today around the globe, as “the most momentous day in a century for midwives. “This is the Year Of The Nurse And Midwife and as such should be a catalytic moment to ignite the respect and recognition for women’s leadership in health. When we asked women who stand with midwives what women want, the answer was resoundingly and globally clear. Women want water, sanitation, and hygiene without which, we cannot achieve health and wellbeing”

Saraki, who is Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), has marked the day by paying tribute to midwives around the world and by joining the WHO and partners Global Water 2020 and the Global Handwashing Partnership in launching the new Applaud With WASH Global Campaign to improve hygiene in health facilities and the safety of their working conditions.

Saraki commented: 2020’s International Day of The Midwife is remarkable in many respects – and is truly momentous, as it takes place in the first ever Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. This year has been designated by the World Health Organization as a year-long effort to celebrate the work of midwives and their colleagues, highlight the challenging conditions they often face, and advocate for increased investments in the workforce.”

“While we celebrate the work of midwives, this is also a solemn day, as we pay tribute to midwives who have lost their lives in the course of their duties, not only during the current COVID-19 crisis but also those in recent years who have paid the ultimate price in conflict areas. Whatever the circumstances, however dangerous, midwives continue to provide a continuum of care, standing beside women at their most vulnerable moments. I know that I will have many midwives, including close friends, in my prayers today.”

“Infection prevention and control is at the top of the global agenda right now. Midwives have led on this since 1840 – if not before – when physician Ignaz Semmelweis worked with midwives to promote water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) on maternity wards. I am therefore proud today to launch the ‘We Must Applaud Midwives with WASH’ campaign, to highlight that whilst we should applaud midwives we also need to ensure that they have the conditions they need to work safely and deliver for women, babies and communities. WASH plays a vital role in stopping disease transmission yet two out of five healthcare facilities still lack hand hygiene facilities at points of care. I am promoting ten immediate hugiene actions which should take place in all healthcare facilities to respond to COVID-19 and protect midwives, their colleagues and patients.”

“Midwives are champions of women’s rights; but can only be effective if their rights are also secure. This includes the right for every midwife—and all health workers—to decent work and a safe and dignified workplace. Saving lives does not mean a midwife should risk her own. I continue to advocate for whole-system support, which means providing midwives with the adequate tools, equipment, and medicine to provide the full scope of timely, high-quality care, and the capacity to carry out the WHO-recommended 8 antenatal visits. We should all take up the call of the International Confederation of Midwives to celebrate, demonstrate, mobilise and unite with midwives.”

The Clean Hands Saves Lives Applaud With WASH Campaign has been welcomed by Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation who stated:

"WHO appreciates and acknowledges the work of the Wellbeing Foundation in supporting midwives globally."

"I am happy to restate that WHO continues to work in collaboration with the global midwifery community and with the International Confederation of Midwives and is actively engaged in celebrating midwives on the International Day of the Midwife - which will focus on 'the voices of midwives sustaining  quality essential  maternal  and newborn care during the COVID 19  pandemic', information  on  WHO  guidance  on  caring  for  women with COVID 19 and Midwives and the global Hand Hygiene campaign in the coronavirus pandemic. Together, and in full solidarity we will defeat this pandemic."

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