Today, on the International Day of the Midwife, we acknowledge and applaud the valuable contributions of midwives around the world to support maternal and newborn health. This year’s theme is “Midwives leading the way with quality care”, and when 15 million babies around the world are born preterm – before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed – midwives providing quality care are a powerful force in saving tiny lives.

Midwives participating in Every Preemie’s Training of Trainers in Malawi role play using the Family-Led Care flip chart. Photo: Beryl Brooks

Complications from preterm birth are the leading cause of death among children under five around the world. But, the majority of these deaths can be prevented with essential newborn care, including warmth, breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. Midwives are vital to the care of preterm babies not only in providing care, but ensuring that quality care is provided to each mother and baby.

In Malawi, where Every Preemie—SCALE is implementing the Family-Led Care model, the preterm birth rate is the highest in the world at 18%. Among their many other duties, midwives in Malawi work with families to implement Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), a simple yet effective intervention to care for early and small babies which includes basic warmth and breastfeeding support. KMC is the central intervention in Every Preemie’s Family-Led Care model, which improves care of early and small babies while in health facilities, and empowers families to participate in their babies’ care with confidence both in the facility and when they return home. Training is a vital component of this model so that providers can improve and refresh their own skills, and provide quality counseling to families under their care.

To empower health providers to deliver quality care, Every Preemie recently hosted a Training of Trainers for district nursing officers in Malawi. Midwives attended from 18 districts around Malawi to learn and become qualified as trainers on the Family-Led Care model as well as Essential Care for Every Baby and Essential Care for Small Babies, the gold standard training in newborn care. These midwives shared their energy, intellect, and love for their work and the mothers and babies they serve. They have committed to take their new skills back to their districts and share what they’ve learned with their colleagues, and are now qualified to facilitate trainings so that other health providers have the same access to education to ensure the highest quality of care for their patients.

Together, we can save countless lives of babies born too early or too small, and this change would not be possible without the dedication, skills, and commitment to quality care of midwives not only in Malawi, but across the world. On the International Day of the Midwife, we say thank you to midwives everywhere.