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Midwives are women, mothers, who have devoted their life providing safe motherhood to other women and mothers.

Access to skilled care from a trained midwife during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery is key to saving a mother’s life and that of her child.

"MIDWIVES SAVE LIVES " is part of my documentary photography project "Birth is a dream – Maternity in Africa" which aims to document and raise awareness about the maternity crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Since 2011 I’ve travelled to Malawi, Uganda, DRC, to document the maternal health conditions.
In July 2013 I had the opportunity to visit and document AMREF Canada’s maternal and child health initiative in Ethiopia, aiming to increase the number of skilled health care workers and health care facilities in the South Omo area.
I decided to focus my work in Ethiopia to document how midwives can support and save lives of pregnant women.

Every year in Africa, more than 160.000 mothers die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth; every year 950.000 African children are left without a mother.
A mother's death is a human tragedy, affecting families and communities.
A great many of these deaths are preventable, when women have access to quality prevention, diagnostic, and treatment services, when pregnancy and childbirth are attended by skilled health professionals.

Quality midwifery services that are coordinated and integrated within communities and within the health system ensure that essential care can be provided throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond. Midwifery services also facilitate referrals of mothers and newborns from the home or health center to the hospital and to the care of obstetricians, pediatricians and other specialists when required.

Midwives, who are overwhelmingly women, typically endure low status, poor pay and a lack of support despite the enormous responsibility they bear.
When they are properly trained, empowered and supported, midwives in the community offer the most cost-effective and high-quality path to universal access to maternal health care. In particular, countries with high rates of maternal mortality need assistance to recruit, train and support professional midwives.

Midwives often introduce women to the health system and ensure that women and their babies receive a continuum of skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the important days and weeks after birth.
Midwives protect the health of the mother and baby providing pre-pregnancy advice and health education, offering general health information, including reproductive health care and family planning, assisting women to successfully breastfeed.

In South Omo, Ethiopia, more than 90% of women don’t have access to skilled health care while giving birth. Lack of access to basic health care is a key reason why the maternal death rate is still so high in Ethiopia (maternal mortality was 350 per 100,000 live births in 2010).
The African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) Canada is working to improve mother and child health in South Omo, a remote region home to pastoralist (also known as nomadic) and semi-pastoralist communities. With an approximate population of 630,000, the region is served by only three doctors and one single hospital. Poor roads combined with an almost impassable terrain make it very difficult for people to reach health services, leading to an increase in preventable illness and life-threatening disease.
AMREF Canada has designed a comprehensive maternal and child health initiative so that pregnant women, newborns and children in South Omo have the means to respond to the threat of illness, disease and death and lead healthy, productive lives.
Starting in 2011 and over a three year period, the program is increasing the number of skilled health care workers and health care facilities in the area, strengthening laboratory services and providing education and treatment to combat communicable diseases and malnutrition which often affect pregnant women and newborns.
This project is undertaken with $2.25 million in financial support from the Government of Canada provided through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).

Find out more about my "BIRTH IS A DREAM" project about the maternity in Africa here:



JaniceW's picture

Beautiful photo essays

Your work immediately brought to mind the LIFE magazine photo essays of Eugene Smith, whose 1951 Nurse Midwife series was a powerful portrayal of a woman's dedication to her craft. Your photos have the same power evoking a wave of emotions as we journey with your subjects through their daily lives.

I am so appreciative that you brought many of the World Pulse members' stories to life with your photos. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and compelling work.

paolo patruno's picture


Dear Janice, thanks a lot for your appreciation.
It's a big honor your parallel with Eugene Smith amazing Nurse Midwife series.
Your comment encourage me to go ahead documenting the maternity matter, even if it's easy at all for me.
If you wish, you can follow me on FB
where I daily post new images from my BIRTH IS A DREAM documentary project
Thanks again.

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