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100 Years of Progress: Celebrating Midwifery and Launch of the Lao Association of Midwife

The Lao Association of Midwives (LAM), in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), today celebrated the International Day of the Midwives with the theme: 100 Years of Progress. The event highlighted the progress made in Lao midwifery over the past 20 years and launched the LAM.

Mrs. Sengmany Khambounheuang, President of LAM, welcomed participants to mark the Day. “IDM is celebrated every year globally, including in Laos, to raise awareness of the importance of midwives, acknowledging the essential role of midwives in reducing maternal mortality. The maternal mortality rate in Laos is still high compared to other countries. Midwives provide care to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum to ensure both mother and babies are safe. Today I am glad to welcome you all to highlight progress in midwifery. I would like to extend my gratitude to UNFPA and partners for providing technical and financial support in midwifery in Laos,” she said.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Aphone Visathep, Party Committee Member of the National Health Insurance Office, Ministry of Health, said, “Maternal mortality rate in Laos has been reduced despite remaining high in the ASEAN region, and challenges remain. Maternal death means a great loss in any society, which is also a sign of the inability of society to protect pregnant women. But maternal death is preventable, and we can address it by strengthening maternal care and community engagement to ensure safe motherhood. In addition, investment in midwives is cost-effective and critical to achieving the SDGs.”

Since 1990 the Lao PDR has made significant progress in maternal mortality ratio (MMR), to 185 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017 (UN estimate). Data from the Lao Statistical Indicator Survey (LSIS II) also shows a steady increase of births assisted by a midwife from 42% in 2011 to 64% in 2017. The midwifery programme has contributed tremendously to safe pregnancy, childbirth, and family planning in Laos.

Ms. Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative to Laos congratulated the government for its efforts and progress in the midwifery programme in Laos. “According to the State of the World Midwifery (SoWMY) Report 2021, a well educated midwife can perform about 90% of essential SRMNCAH. Yet, globally and in Laos, we are still facing a shortage of midwives. Therefore, we must invest in midwives by increasing the number of trained and deployed midwives to provide quality health services to mothers and babies across the country.”

The Lao government recognizes the role of midwives in reducing maternal mortality, demonstrated through its efforts to improve midwifery programmes. As a result, a number of policies, strategies, and curriculums have been developed and implemented and midwifery was integrated into the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) Strategy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025. Further efforts are seen in the 2022 midwifery curriculum revised to meet international standards.

As of today 2,397 midwives were trained, and 439 of the lower-level trained were upskilled through the Higher Diploma level.

As of 2020 1,867 trained midwives were deployed to provide services across the country. 513 students are currently enrolled in the 3-year direct entry midwifery programme, and 196 midwives are undertaking the 18-month upgrade to Higher Diploma. To meet the government’s goals by 2030, further investment is required to upgrade about 1,200 existing midwives to Higher Diploma level. To cover maternity care needs in the entire country, especially remote areas, a further 1,500 midwives need to be deployed (projections by SoWMy, 2021).

Ms. Bounma Kingsalath, a retired midwife from Khammuan province who has been a midwife since 1973, shared her story at the event. “I grew up in a rural village about 60KM away from Khammuan town centre. I witnessed the difficulty pregnant women faced during that time, and one of my relatives died from childbirth, which inspired me to be a midwife. I wanted to help pregnant women in my community.”

Another significant progress was the launch of the Lao Association of Midwife (LAM.) With support from UNFPA, LAM was established in 2014, and received approval from MOHA in 2021. LAM will foster access to midwifery education, influence health policies, build midwifery networks, and strengthen midwifery leadership. All midwives and anyone interested in developing the midwifery profession in Laos are welcome to join LAM. Visit their website to learn more.

Source: Lao News Agency