The Founder- President of the Well -being Foundation Africa, Toyin Ojora Saraki has called on policymakers to respect the rights of pregnant women, during the global, regional and national responses to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Mrs Saraki, who has served since 2014 as the Inaugural Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives issued her call-to-action in response to an Official Statement from that organisation, alerting stakeholders to the threat to women’s rights.
“The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) is concerned that the human rights of women, their babies and their midwives are being violated by the introduction, in many countries, of inappropriate protocols for management of pregnancy, birth and postnatal care in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. These inappropriate protocols are not based in current reputable evidence and are harmful to the wellbeing of women and their babies”.
“I share, endorse, and give my support to the grave concerns expressed by the ICM which represents over 1 million midwives and 600 country associations in more than 130 countries, that Women’s Rights in Childbirth Must be Upheld During the Coronavirus Pandemic.”
According to her, motherhood is specific to women, issues of gender equity and gender violence are also at the core of maternity care.
“ The notion of safe motherhood must be expanded beyond the prevention of morbidity or mortality to encompass respect for women’s basic human rights including respect for women’s autonomy, dignity, feelings, choices, and preferences, including the right to companionship during maternity care.’ She added that the role of midwives as guardians of women’s rights to health has been historically evidenced since physician Ignaz Semmelweis documented the effects of hand hygiene on health in the 1800’s.
“Women delivered by midwives’ clean hands had higher survival outcomes than other patients in his hospital who perished, thereby announcing that hand hygiene, the same core infection prevention and control protocols being deployed to deliver the world from COVID today in 2020, saved lives.’
‘The WHO recommendations on caring for pregnant and recently pregnant women with COVID-19 insist that to date, there is limited data on clinical presentation and perinatal outcomes after COVID-19 during pregnancy or the puerperium, and there is no evidence that pregnant women present with different signs or symptoms or are at higher risk of severe illness, and that considering asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 may be possible in pregnant or recently pregnant women, as with the general population, all women with epidemiologic history of contact should be carefully monitored.’
Mrs Saraki urged all policymakers to remember that women’s memories of their childbearing experiences stay with them for a lifetime and are often shared with other women, contributing to a climate of confidence or doubt around childbearing.’
“Pregnant women around the world are already facing a crisis of uncertainty over where and how to access much needed routine antenatal and postnatal care as health facilities shut their doors to patients except those needing care for severe respiratory symptoms of the COVID pandemic”.