Over the years Pakistan has made progress in reducing its maternal mortality ratio to 186 deaths per 100,000 live births, but the country has a long way to go until it achieves targets under Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for the ratio to be below 70 deaths per 100,000 live births.
“The presence of a professional and competent midwife can ensure that 9 out of 10 births take place safely,” according to Professor Rafat Jan, Associate Dean of the Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM) outreach and policy unit in Karachi, Pakistan. She adds that evidence from around the world has shown that a midwifery-led model of care can provide mothers with affordable and accessible care throughout their pregnancy as well as during and after delivery.
A graduate of the AKU-SONAM inaugural class in 1983 and long-time advocate of the midwifery vocation, Professor Jan adds: “Every woman has the right to access midwifery care which can provide a nurturing and supportive environment for all mothers and newborns. Midwives should be at the forefront of efforts to improve maternal health..."
Over the past three decades, Professor Jan has devoted her career to raising standards in midwifery practice and education across Pakistan. She has served as the president of the Midwifery Association of Pakistan, the country's leading policy-advocacy body for the profession, and in 2015 she became the first nurse-midwife to lead the Pakistan Nursing Council, the regulatory and standard setting body for nurses. Before returning to AKU as the associate dean of the School's outreach and policy unit, Professor Jan also served as the first and only member of the International Confederation of Midwives from Pakistan.
Throughout her career, Professor Jan has highlighted how educated, competent and professional midwives can play a crucial role in helping mothers and babies survive and thrive. When she made a generous donation to AKU-SONAM on its 40th anniversary in April 2021, she hoped to make a greater and even longer lasting contribution towards raising the quality of maternal healthcare and evidence- based services and education across Pakistan.
Besides continuing to advocate for greater career opportunities for midwives, Professor Jan also hopes to see the introduction of midwifery-led full scope of care in hospitals and medical centres in Pakistan where midwives play a leading role in caring for expecting mothers.
“Midwifery-led care is an integral part of health care in the UK and New Zealand and is also making progress in North America and Africa. This model holds the potential to provide an ideal setting that is friendly, cost-effective and customised to a mother's needs," Professor Jan adds.