Story from the United Nations Archives: The midwife’s magic suitcase in the 1960s

Above International Day to End Obstetric FistulaMarked every year on 23 May, we are looking at the vital role of midwives and following a feature from United Nations Radio since 1963, Magic suitcasenarrated by Hollywood star Jack Benny.

The radio and television entertainer joined the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the 1960s to raise awareness of reproductive health care and the important role of midwives around the world, especially in places with high child mortality rates.

Mr. Benny takes listeners to Thailand, following the story of a family and the happy birth of a healthy baby after a local midwife arrives on a bicycle with her own magical suitcase.

Listen to the full episode of UN Radio Classics This.

In 1954, workers assembled UNICEF's maternity kits at a warehouse in Jersey City, USA, ready to be shipped to countries with high child mortality rates. (document)

In 1954, workers assembled UNICEF’s maternity kits at a warehouse in Jersey City, USA, ready to be shipped to countries with high child mortality rates. (document)

Part of UNICEF’s program to help women give birth safely includes training midwives and shipping what Mr. Benny calls a “magic suitcase” around the world.

In the photo above, from 1954, Yupa Sookchareon (second from left) tests a fetal stethoscope from one of 14,000 aluminum midwifery kits that UNICEF prepared to send to midwives practicing in 27 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Latin America.

Ms. Sookchareon, a nurse studying at the New York City Association of Maternity Centers on a six-month scholarship from the Thai Government, will return to Bangkok Hospital and Nursing as a midwife training supervisor. .

Meanwhile, maternity kits are being assembled at a warehouse in Jersey City at a rate of 700 a day.

They will be distributed by governments to graduates of UNICEF-supported midwifery training courses in their countries.

This kit contains many life-saving tools that a traditional midwife might carry for a woman in labor, including a sharp knife, gauze, gloves and a bottle of antiseptic solution.

For decades, these kits have helped save the lives of mothers and babies around the world.

That continues today.

‘Thanks to midwives, childbirth is safer’

UNICEF and the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPAruns programs around the world for midwives, providing tools and training.

According to the most recent report, well-trained midwives working in a fully functional environment could help prevent about two-thirds of maternal and newborn deaths. The state of midwifery in the world report.

Since 2008, UNFPA has worked with partners, governments and policymakers to help build a competent, well-trained and well-supported midwifery workforce where resources are available. limit.

“Today, around the world, millions of lives are in the hands of midwives,” said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem. International Day of the Midwifemarked every year on May 2.

“Whether they are wading through floodwaters to reach pregnant women or delivering babies amid the rubble of an earthquake, midwives are the unsung heroes of public health services,” she said. ”. “Thanks to midwives, childbirth is safer.”

Keeping up with the times, UNICEF updated the mid-century magic suitcases and standardized it midwifery departmentcurrently contains basic medicines and equipment for midwives to handle 50 normal births.

Take a look at what’s inside UNICEF’s latest maternity kits below:

UN News‘s #ThrowbackThursday series showcases monumental moments and individuals in the history of the United Nations, cultivated from United Nations Audiovisual Library49,400 hours of video and 18,000 hours of audio and video from archives held across the United Nations and its agencies.

UN video update Stories from the United Nations Archives playlist This and our accompanying series This.

Join us next Thursday to learn more about history.

Can anal fistula be prevented? Can a midwife help?

Skilled medical professionals and timely, quality emergency obstetric care can help prevent fistula. (document)

Skilled medical professionals and timely, quality emergency obstetric care can help prevent fistula. (document)

The answer to both questions is yes. Indeed, the theme of the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula is Breaking the cycle: Preventing fistulas worldwide. Here’s some quick facts from the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, about one of the most serious and tragic childbirth injuries:

  • What is a fistula? Without access to medical treatment, women who experience prolonged and obstructed labor face the risk of fistula, a hole between the birth canal and the bladder and/or rectum often leading to chronic health problems, social isolation and deepening poverty.
  • Half a million women and girls, mainly in developing countries, live with trauma around the world, with new cases occurring every year
  • Midwives provide the majority of frontline maternity care and are key to preventing fistulas and other birth injuries
  • In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to end obstetric fistula by 2030, and UN agencies from UNICEF to UNFPA have emphasized the urgent need to tackle the problem seriously. inclusively through equitable access to quality maternal health services, social reintegration and sustainable investment in health care. system


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