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Burcard Umuhoza, as young as 28 years of age, is a male midwife in Gisenyi district hospital in the Western province of Rwanda who has taken a personal oath to ensure motherhood is safe starting with the hospital he works in.

He compares midwifery with army in terms of preparedness and sacrifices citing an example of those being at risk of death are saved. A midwife is always alert even without a patient in the labor room like a soldier even during peaceful moments.

Even when there’s no expecting mother in a delivery room, there is a midwife in the maternity ward to give care to women and their babies to avoid post-partum complications.

“I see this of great pride and privilege for myself to be part of the team that saves lives of women and new born,” says Umuhoza.

Striving to make motherhood safe is a call for everyone including Government, NGOs, civil society, academic institutions and especially health providers with midwives at the front line.

How did you choose midwifery?

At first, it was curiosity that made me choose the profession. I didn’t know much about midwifery when I joined the university but because there were very few male students I gave it a try. After two months, I developed the interest for what I had chosen.

During internship I enjoyed more. The joy of the mother holding her baby was and will always be my strength. The wishes and promises of a mother after giving birth are sometimes beyond their capacity but I understand it’s the excitement and appreciation.

Days ago a woman in labor told me “Doctor if I and my newborn baby survive, I will give you a cow” but in reality she even had no rabbit back home. Amazing!!

A mother’s trust in a midwife is the first medicine for a successful delivery and acceptance to whatever pregnancy outcomes. Unfortunately, not always the results are positive despite all efforts and intervention. Sometimes we lose mothers or babies and even though this is usually overlooked, it greatly affects the physical, emotional and psychosocial wellbeing of health providers.   

Midwives require counselling skills to prepare the mother on whatever outcome and ensure the expectant mother that the safe delivery would be the success and joy for both the health provider and the family.

What are the Challenges?

A challenge that hurts a lot is that some women choose to deliver their babies at home and when they experience complications they rush to hospital, when the condition is critical.

Sadly, Umuhoza says “My worst moment is to see a mother dying despite all   interventions. I become sleepless that night but I take courage, comfort myself in order to gain strengths to care for those who will be coming the following day”

When delivering at home, the majority babies and mothers lose their lives due to complications that could have been prevented with emergency obstetric and neonatal care provided by midwives at health centers and hospitals.

It’s known all over that there are many challenges that midwives themselves face, some of them being related to availability of midwifery services. So far Midwives are under paid compared to other professions and the low number of midwives makes the workload heavy and stressful.

Currently the number of midwives in Rwanda is still far below the WHO standards with only 1268 instead of having a minimum of 3660 midwives. Umuhoza advocates for increasing the number of midwives in the country. “There is need to invest more in midwifery to reduce maternal mortality” he said.

What is your advice?

Photo: Keeping maternal records of his clients is important 

“Only a day offering the best service to save lives of mothers and newborn is valuable. Thus Midwifery is a call that requires patience, passion and continuous professional development”. 

Umuhoza advices fellow midwives to love their profession and dedicate their time to always improve the quality of service delivery. “Be passionate about midwifery for better performance,” he adds. 

Midwives play a major role in advancing targets set by government and partners which impacts global progress in reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combatting HIV and AIDS. The long journey to achieve goals at all administrative levels requires the efforts of midwives as they play  a vital role particularly during the  management of emergent obstetric and neonatal complications which claim many lives of mothers and new born 

UNFPA supports to boost the number of competent midwives, by strengthening midwifery education, regulation and association to ensure women’s health and wellbeing in pregnancy and childbirth. In addition UNFPA invests in various efforts to advocate for midwifery across the globe. The Expansion of the ranks and number of competent midwives, working alongside other health professionals, will greatly contribute to a massive reduction of maternal and child mortality.

By Maureen Twahirwa