In times of conflict, people facing violence and displacement urgently need essentials like shelter, water and food. However, when dealing with the challenge of providing for people's most basic needs, too often aid agencies overlook the unique ways in which women are affected. Facing this gap, midwives play crucial roles caring for women in war and conflict zones.
The challenge is huge. In war, access to health care is threatened, if it's even accessible at all. For pregnant women, this can be life-threatening for both the mother and baby.
What's more, in conflict all over the world, women and girls are often targeted with rape as a weapon of war, designed to destroy lives and terrorize communities.
In these circumstances, a midwife's role has evolved beyond that of delivering babies. The international aid community has begun to rely on "conflict midwives" more and more for the critical role they play in providing the full range of reproductive health care and emotional support for mothers and survivors of sexual violence in crisis situations.
Of course, this is something that MADRE has recognized for years. We understand the distinct challenges faced by women in war and disaster, and we appreciate the critical role that midwives have played – and will continue to play – in meeting their needs.
In the West Bank, where Israeli-imposed restrictions on movement make it difficult for pregnant Palestinian women to reach hospitals, we partner with Midwives for Peace, a network of Israeli and Palestinian midwives who work together to safely deliver babies despite the conflict that surrounds them.
In Afghanistan, where rates of both violence against women and maternal mortality are among the highest in the world, we expanded our Afghan Women's Survival Fund to form a special partnership with midwives. In addition to providing life-saving care to women and newborns, these brave midwives were able to connect women trapped in abusive situations with the resources to aid them to safety.
The midwives MADRE partners with do far more than deliver babies – they give women and girls a chance at a safe and healthy life, providing the integral first steps for them to recover from war.