A successful decade of midwifery program in Bangladesh

Midwives are now conducting 86% of child deliveries in 407 upazila health complexes across the country

On a rainy morning in July 2021, a mother was waiting in a boat to have her baby delivered in Bandarban's Ruma Upazila. However, owing to heavy rain, there was no way to get her to the nearest hospital.

“I was on duty that day. Someone came to me and told me about the patient. I quickly assembled the necessary equipment and went to the river. I observed the patient’s condition and reassured her. Then I decided to have her give birth to her child on a boat," Zilkhee Sharma, a Ruma Upazila Health Complex midwife, said.

The strong currents on the river forced her to take the decision of not moving the mother from the boat. "I managed to deliver the child on board. Later on, the baby and the mother were taken to the hospital. Both of them were safe. That day, I felt really proud to be a member of the midwifery family," she continued.

Zilkhee shared this experience at a seminar titled “A Decade of Midwifery in Bangladesh”, jointly organized by the Directorate General of Nursing and Midwifery (DGNM), British High Commission in Bangladesh, Brac James P Grant School of Public Health, and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at a hotel in Dhaka on Wednesday to reflect on the progress of midwifery in the country over the past decade.

A total of 8,646 midwives have graduated over the last decade. Of them, 2,557 were deployed at government health facilities.

As a result, midwives are now conducting 86% of child deliveries in 407 upazila health complexes across Bangladesh, speakers at the event said.

In addition, of the 1,028 midwifery graduates from Brac University, 376 are currently working at various private health facilities across Bangladesh. Around 400 midwives have also been deployed in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.

By supporting 38 nursing and midwifery colleges and institutes in Bangladesh, the UK Government has provided critical support to the government and UNFPA in strengthening midwifery education in the country over the past decade.

Md Saiful Hassan Badal, secretary at the Medical Education and Family Welfare Division, said: “The national midwifery program has greatly contributed to reducing the number of maternal and newborn deaths as well as caesarean section rates in Bangladesh. I am happy we are close to realizing the prime minister’s commitment of deploying 3,000 midwives.”

At the seminar, Siddika Akter, director general of DGNM, said: “Considering the need for their services across the country, more than 20,000 midwives need to be deployed to different health facilities, including district and medical college hospitals, in the near future. The government has devised a plan to create 5,000 new midwifery posts and we hope to implement it soon.”

Matt Cannell, development director at the British High Commission in Bangladesh, said: “Bangladesh’s National Midwifery Programme has successfully enabled thousands of mothers to give birth normally. I commend the government for institutionalising midwifery services on its journey towards achieving universal health coverage and Sustainable Development Goal 3.”

In the concluding remarks, Dr Eiko Narita, country representative of UNFPA in Bangladesh, said: “The UK government’s generous support has enabled us to train thousands of midwives over the past decade and integrate their life-saving services into the national health system. I sincerely hope we can further strengthen this partnership to achieve zero preventable maternal deaths and zero unmet need for family planning in Bangladesh by 2030.”

The seminar was attended by over a hundred senior officials and representatives from different government ministries, development and implementing partners, and midwifery institutions.