Midwives from Gaza presenting at the International Midwife Congress

Results from NORWAC’s Safe Childbirth project in Gaza was presented at The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) 32nd Triennial Congress in June 2021.

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) hold their 32nd Triennial Congress in June 2021. Because of COVID-19 the congress is online and is the largest virtual gathering of midwives ever. A team of midwives, MSc. Itimad Abu Ward, MSc. Amani Jouda, MSc. Suha Balousha, PhD. Signe Egenberg, MSc. Naila Al Masri, and Dr.PH Ellen Blix, prepared and presented a poster at the congress showing the results of NORWAC’s Safe Childbirth project in Gaza.

The Safe Childbirth project is a quality improvement project for the obstetric ward aiming to ensure better care for mothers and new-born babies in Gaza. As a NORWAC project it started at Al-Shifa hospital in 2015 with Synne Holan, after WHO had implemented it in three hospitals in the south of Gaza. In 2018, the project was extended to Al-Harazin hospital and in 2019 it commenced at Kemal Adwan hospital.  The beneficiaries of the projects are the approximately 20 000 women who annually give birth at these hospitals.

The positive results of the project from 2015-2018 were presented in the poster.

  • An increase from 65% to 100% of all women got an initial risk assessment upon admission to the labor ward. This increase efficiency and reduce pressure on medical doctors.
  • An increase from 53% to 100% of low-risk women in labor were assisted by midwives.
  • The use of Oxytocin went down from 24% to 8%. Oxytocin is a very potent drug that can cause serious complications. Only women with slow progress during delivery should receive this treatment.
  • An increase from 45% to 81 % of all mothers were able to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after birth.
  • An increased from 27% to 81% of the mothers got postnatal examinations for early detection of complications.

The project also focuses in improving the documentation of all births, which also makes studies like this possible, and training of doctors and all midwives in the emergency programs, Helping Babies Breath (HBB) and Helping Mothers survive Bleeding after birth (HMS).

Two of the midwives, Itimad Abu Ward and Suha Balousha, were kind enough to share some of their thoughts about being midwives and about their work and the attendance at the IFC congress.

Itimad explains that midwifery is her passion and inspiration.  Helping women, from conception, during the pregnancy, after birth and helping their babies is all very satisfying.  I choose to be a midwife because it is vital profession and I believe strengthening the women in their reproductive age means empowering the whole community.  Suha decided to become a midwife already when she was 18, and she loves the profession and the importance of what she does.

Suha tells us that they are working hard to develop and improve the midwifery profession in Gaza and this work is important to share at the ICM congress. “Even under attacks and despite difficulties, we are working to follow ICM regulation and to perform best practices” tells Itimad.  We also want to standardize the midwifery education, strengthen the nursing and midwifery association in Palestine and do research, but we need more support to do so.

Suha explains that it means a lot for them to be able to attend the ICM congress.  It makes us grow in our profession and we become more enlightened and aware about updated and global midwifery issues. Itimad has attended the congress two times earlier, and thinks it is good that is virtual this time, because it is easier for more people to attend, especially in Gaza. She points out that the congress webpage and platform are very user friendly and flexible. She thinks the recording of different sessions is an excellent idea. They can now listen to the different recording any time until August. As many as 20 midwives in Gaza will have access and attend the congress.   On Tuesday 15th June Itimad will conduct a workshop to help them be familiar with the platform and show them how they can benefit the most from the congress. These 20 midwives will summarize five issues learned from the congress and in August/September and they will hold a small congress in Gaza.

Suha remembers that she was a senior midwife working in Al-Shifa hospital when NORWAC started to support the Safe childbirth project in Gaza.  She thinks it has been a great experience to have been a part of the project since the start and now in the developing of the poster.  Itimad explains that NORWAC has played an important role from start to finish. NORWAC first highlighted the importance of data and how to use it, and then they gave the support of two expert midwives, Ellen Blix and Signe Egenberg, who have worked closely with the local team during the whole process.  In addition, NORWAC paid the fees, so the midwives could be able to attend the congress.

Suha and Itimad want to thank NORWAC for supporting Palestinian midwives, ever since 1986. They are grateful for NORWAC’s effort to strengthen the midwifery profession in Palestine. Thank you for sharing, Itimad and Suha.

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