UNFPA East and Southern Africa (Johannesburg)

Mongu — “Growing up in a remote village, I witnessed my grandmother, a traditional birth attendant, assisting women and girls to deliver babies. She would perform these deliveries at home, using local herbs to try and address complications,” said Michelle Simukayi, a student at Lewanika College of Nursing and Midwifery in Western Province.

“Many mothers and their newborns lost their lives during pregnancy and delivery. This made me sad,” she said.

She observed how the lives of pregnant women in her village in in Shibuyunji District of Central Province were at risk due to limited access to information and long distances to health facilities, and decided to do something about it. After completing high school, she began researching the topic of maternal deaths and came across a book, Sellers’ Midwifery by Pauline McCall Sellers. It changed the course of her life.

“I was determined to become a midwife to save the lives of women and girls in remote rural areas,” said Michelle, now a third year student pursuing a Diploma in Nursing and Midwifery.

While studying full time, she also provides information and services to women, young people, and newborn babies at Lewanika General Hospital. Here, her experience has made her aware of the diverse challenges faced by nurses and midwives in the call of duty, especially in remote rural facilities. She remains optimistic about her chosen career and looks forward to completing her studies so that she can begin saving lives in earnest.

Reducing Zambia’s maternal and newborn deaths

Zambia has made significant strides in the past two decades to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes. The maternal mortality rate dropped nearly 300 per cent in 16 years – from 729 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2002, to 278 deaths per 100,000 in 2018.

What has been critical in this achievement is greater availability of skilled midwifery personnel. The number of births assisted by a skilled attendant more than doubled over the same period, from 42 per cent in 2002 to 80 per cent in 2018.

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