Midwives are at the forefront of improving maternal and newborn health in Bangladesh. There is a great need for this service across the country, with midwives needed in different health facilities in the host communities as well as to support the health of pregnant mothers and newborns in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The national midwifery program initiated by the Bangladesh Government has significantly reduced maternal and newborn deaths, as well as rates of emergency caesarean section in Bangladesh.
In March 2023 Australia Assists deployee Christine, deployed to UNFPA in Cox’s Bazar as a midwife mentor. Australia Assists is the Australian Government’s Humanitarian deployment program that has been responding to the Rohingya Refugee crisis since it began in 2017.
‘As a midwife mentor I train the coordinators and midwife supervisors in Primary Health Care facilities in the host community and for the Rohingya Refugee population in Cox’s Bazar’ says Christine.
The primary aim of Christine’s role is to improve the quality of maternal health care provided in Bangladesh by training others to deliver midwifery training in varied health settings. Midwifery is a relatively new component of the health care system in Bangladesh, being established just over ten years ago. Preceding this, pregnant women before delivery, during labour and throughout antenatal care including postnatal care were deferred to more general nurses.
The three-year midwifery diploma course has been adopted by 60 nursing colleges and 105 private midwifery institutes. Bringing the tally closer to the Honourable Prime Minister’s commitment of deploying 3,000 midwives.
Christine tells us that she has just seen the sixth bunch of students graduate from midwifery school. Christine and her colleagues are supporting a total of 26 health facilities with 271 midwives in primary health care and secondary, Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn care service (CEmONC) facilities. In Primary health care students are taught stabilisation and also when a mother may need to be quickly referred to a CEmONC facility for a caesarean section or other critical specialist treatment.
Christine works as a Midwife Mentor with UNFPA in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The role is diverse and includes the provision of relevant training and mentorship to doctors and midwives.
This is Christine’s first role with Australia Assists however she has deployed as an international midwife mentor in some very challenging contexts.
‘Midwifery is needed all over the world and it has taken me to Afghanistan for one year, in Pakistan for a year, in South Sudan for nearly three years and I have also worked in Zimbabwe and Malawi.’
Now as Christine begins her time in Bangladesh it’s encouraging to know that her technical expertise and work on the ground will make an impact to the lives and futures of the women and children of Bangladesh thanks to the valued support of Australia Assists.