Established in 2018 by Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s partner GreenLamp in Switzerland, the Hamlin Midwives Alumni Network (HMAN) is a network for ongoing professional development for Hamlin Midwives. Any midwives who have graduated from Hamlin College of Midwives are invited to participate, they are encouraged to lead and organise themselves regionally, using social media to communicate and support each other. HMAN is actively supported in these early set-up days by GreenLamp and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Hamlin College of Midwives.
The aims of HMAN are to provide support and training for Hamlin Midwives once they have graduated from the Hamlin College of Midwives. Their goals include the growth of leadership attributes in Hamlin Midwives, the initiation of personal and professional development objectives for midwives and the proliferation of evidence-based best practice – as well as the facilitation of feedback by midwives on projects, equipment, and midwifery skills training.
Tesfaye Mamo, CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, believes that in addition to further developing midwives, HMAN can help strengthen the overall prevention effort to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia. He noted that HMAN can “look for possibilities to improve the work Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia does and ways to be more successful.”
For the Hamlin College of Midwives, the establishment of an alumni network will have a significant contribution for sustaining the quality of education received at the Hamlin College of Midwives. In essence, by providing Hamlin Midwives with ongoing support and training, HMAN is making great midwives even better!
Each year there is a HMAN annual summit. The summit is a time to come together, network and workshop new skills and developments in midwifery. Previous summits saw the attendance of over 80 Hamlin Midwives and featured seminars from external researchers, such as cervical cancer expert Dr Muluken Gizaw from the Addis Ababa University, and Friederike Ruddies from the University of Leipzig. A crucial refresher training is the efficient handling of the Solar Systems supplied by GreenLamp - access to light at night can be life saving for mother and child. We have also introduced a supportive app called Safe Delivery app that can be used in health centres offline. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, the summit has taken a new, regional format.
Christina Blecher, the chair of GreenLamp explained that “One of GreenLamp's main reasons to initiate and support HMAN, is to create momentum and motivation for the midwives to stay active in their profession as caring and skilled midwives, to lead improvement in maternity services locally and act as role models for women and girls in the communities they serve. We believe that they are absolutely key to improving the number of safe deliveries in rural communities, and the more support they receive in the field, the more likely it will be that the prevention work they do will eventually eradicate fistula.”
This year, the HMAN Summit has been divided into four regional summits. Two of the summits – in Mettu and Hawassa – took place in April, the third and fourth will be held in Amhara and East Oromia Harar, respectively, later this year. The summits were able to proceed with social distancing and COVID-safe measures and were funded and supported by GreenLamp.
“GreenLamp and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s project coordinator have been delighted at the enthusiastic response to regional meetings; how proactive and participative the midwives have been; and the action plans they are developing to improve the maternity services they offer,” said Christina Blecher, Chair of GreenLamp.
Moving to regional meetings, whilst maintaining the focus on midwife-led workshops and working in small groups has made it possible for graduates of the Hamlin College of Midwives to continue their professional development through networking, skills training and maintenance, and the development of leadership skills. Refresher courses in pelvic prolapse and discussions on best-practice techniques provide upskilling opportunities for the midwives. This year’s summits have shown that many Hamlin Midwives are interested in furthering their skills through a Master’s Degree in and enhancing the training of local Diploma midwives.
At the HMAN Summit in Mettu, 21 Hamlin Midwives were in attendance, while there were 34 participants at the Hawassa summit. Much of this year’s summits were spent in collaborative discussion groups which allow the midwives to discuss challenges they have recently faced and provide feedback on their clinical experiences. Topics discussed at the Mettu and Hawassa meetings included ‘What are the major challenges and possible opportunities for Hamlin Midwives?’ and the role of Hamlin Midwives in delivering maternal care in the midst of a pandemic.
Sister Wongel Alemayehu, Hamlin Midwife in West Oromia, reflected on the regional HMAN meeting in Mettu: “We had a great time. We were able to share our successes and experiences - the best part of the meeting. We also set our goals in future and how we will work on it.”
The Hamlin College of Midwives is a key cog in Hamlin’s efforts to eradicate fistula. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Midwifery) degree, graduates are assigned to a Hamlin-supported midwifery clinic near their hometown. This set-up garners better outcomes: Hamlin Midwives, by virtue of being a part of the communities they serve, are able to better communicate with the population, understand local customs, navigate cultural norms, help dispel misconceptions about maternal health care, and earn the trust of the community.
Since 2010, 195 Hamlin Midwives have graduated from the Hamlin College of Midwives. Hamlin Midwives are currently based in 80 Hamlin-supported midwifery clinics across regional Ethiopia. Their transformative role extends beyond maternal health as well: Hamlin Midwives have played an important role in raising awareness about COVID-19 and preventing community transmission of the virus. This is the result of the trust that Hamlin Midwives have gained through years of excellent clinical work and community engagement.
In rural Ethiopia, where 70% of births take place without a midwife or doctor present, Hamlin Midwives are working tirelessly to provide safe births and prevent obstetric fistula injuries from occurring. In the 2019-2020 financial year, 24,856 babies were safely delivered at Hamlin-supported midwifery clinics.
Additional images from GreenLamp.