International Confederation of Midwives in Durban 2011

The biggest event in maternal and child care will be coming to Africa. South Africa will host the International Confederation of Midwifery Conference on June 19-23, 2011 in Durban. Midwives from allover the globe will be attending. South Africa is well-known for its big 5 in the world of nature and wildlife preservation, and so it is to be the theme of the conference in Durban. The theme of the ICM 2011 congress is “midwives tackling the “Big 5” globally. The ICM congress has turned to underline the Five Big Challenges facing Midwives Globally which are the leading causes of maternal death and morbidity in the world.

The expert advice is clear and that is that maternal mortality in Africa is facing a crisis. Maternal mortality ratio in Africa is the highest in the world. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from the highest Maternal morality rates such as about 640 maternald deaths per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality is a major problem in South Africa. South African rates are unacceptably high and far above comparable international norms and is totally preventable. It lacks political will.

The major organizations will be there such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEFF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, just to mention a few. These major organizations of the UN system are all relevant stakeholders whose emblems I expect to see on the conference website, though there are also the major pharmaceutical company’s competing for a place in Durban. They will all have an opportunity to view the conditions prevailing in Africa, my continent.

The countries of Africa will all come together to celebrate birth. Regrettably the numbers of midwives will be few because the majority of needed midwives will not be able to make this journey. The cost is very high. Most midwives in Africa don’t earn the kind of money required to afford the trip.. If they can’t come to an event like this it means they will never get the valuable information that will be presented at the conference. These midwives are the frontline workers, they do the dirty work while the other’s drinking the wine and enjoying the cheese; the sweet life.

I am fortunate to be able to attend these conferences. As a matter of fact I have been attending international conferences for the last 10 years. Many times I am the only person from Africa. Why; because many can’t afford the high cost, hotel, airplanes, not to mention visas.

Many countries will come and present their papers. Some of them I have previously heard and listened to. They refer to us as the Third World. Third world is such a derogatory term, but it is the most used term in North America. In 2001 at the UN more then 189 countries agreed that the term third world will never be used again but unfortunately people in the developed world don’t seem to understand that. The term Third World is actually a Cold war nomenclature because at the time they did not know what to do with those countries that neither aligned with the Western World powers nor the Soviets. From day one the term started out to be some kind of a stereotype.

I feel angry when they us that term. It feels as if they refer to me as nigger. It is so distasteful that I can’t explain but many midwives continue to talk like that when writing in journals or presenting papers. In midwifery we do not need demeaning terms like that. I don’ expect an organization like ICM will tolerate language like that. Most of the people that will speak at ICM are all graduates, PhDs, so I am sure they will respect us in this beautiful continent of us. I hope they will use “developing world” or “developing nations.” The Third World Term is just a very very bad label! African nurses do not deserve that label.

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