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A group of ten retired Fijian midwives has recently returned from Samoa after completing ten successful weeks, supporting maternal health during the measles epidemic. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Pacific Sub-Regional Office had deployed ten retired but qualified and currently licensed midwives, from across Fiji to stay in Samoa for ten weeks, supporting the maternity and labour wards of the nation’s hospitals.

The Government of Samoa declared a state of emergency on November 15, 2019, to respond to an ongoing measles outbreak in the country. Samoa’s measles outbreak last year had strained health service provision, diverting critical resources away from other non-measles essential services, in a bid to scale-up vaccination of target population and treatment services for existing measles patients.

Ms. Sovaia Uluimalolo, the Team Leader of the ten midwives said they are happy to be back home after spending ten weeks at the national and district hospitals in Samoa.

"It was God's calling for us to serve the people of Samoa during the measles crisis. The ten weeks have been very challenging but we are happy that our mission is accomplished and has been successful," said Ms. Uluimalolo.

This deployment was supported by the Ministry of Health Fiji in collaboration with the Nursing Council of Fiji, to Samoa as part of the response to the call for an emergency medical team. This deployment is fully funded by UNFPA and implemented through the existing Emergency Medical Team platform coordinated by the World Health Organization in Samoa.

"For someone like me who has been at home for almost a year, that was an enjoyable moment for me, you know being without a job and then to go back and give back to the community was very rewarding. Everything just fell back into place. I felt as though I had never retired." - Kelera Rabuka, retired Fijian midwife.

"At this point in time, I would like to thank UNFPA for allowing the retired midwives sitting here in my midst to exercise their knowledge and skills again after they retired from the ministry and use it somewhere else.  I thank the UNFPA for allowing us to go back and do the work because we are already retired and staying home." - Karalaini Macanawai, retired Fijian midwife.

"Midwifery strategy in UNFPA is not only concentrated on ensuring skilled birth attendance, although it is a centrepiece of our strategy, but also midwives as partners in promoting choice. Ensuring that women get information that will empower them to make informed choices about their bodies." - Ana Maria Leal, Humanitarian Specialist UNFPA Pacific Sub-Regional Office.

UNFPA has supported the deployment of the midwives in the past for Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu in early 2015 and Cyclone Gita in Tonga in mid-2018 was through our partnership with the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services, with the facilitation of the then Director/Chief Nursing we were able to support the emergency situation in the two countries to provide antenatal care, delivery services, postnatal care, comprehensive and basic emergency obstetrics and newborn care, and family planning services.

The approach was highly commended as effective South-South cooperation during times of emergencies in minimizing risks during situations where health teams could be overworked/overstretched and affecting health outcomes.

UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled. Our mandate is all the more crucial and central to global development in the era of the 2020 Agenda for Sustainable Development, underpinned by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. UNFPA expands the possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives.