KARACHI - As nurses and midwives are on the frontline of healthcare services delivery, they are in a strong position to help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in different ways, says Prof Sharon Brownie, dean of Aga Khan University's School of Nursing and Midwifery in East Africa.

She was speaking as keynote speaker at the symposium on International Nurses and Midwives Day at the AKU Auditorium in Karachi. The event focused on “Nurses: A Voice to Lead, Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals” and “Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!” themes for this year's International Nurses Day and International Day of the Midwife.

SDGs contain 17 goals that seek to address some of the world's biggest challenges, such as ending poverty, improving health and education and combating climate change, among other issues. The United Nations' member states have agreed to achieve these goals by 2030.

According to Prof Brownie, nurses and midwives have a very important role in respect to SDGs, particularly Goal 3 related to 'health and well-being' of all people, including mothers and babies. Their work also has a major impact on the delivery of other SDGs, such as education and poverty - often referred to as social determinants of health.

Prof Brownie said that the role of nurses , midwives and other health workers, and their interaction with families can be strengthened by bringing more health services to the community - both urban and rural. Nurses and midwives’ practice in communities comes with multiple opportunities to engage in preventative health teaching and deliver of primary healthcare services. “Every interaction with families could be a 'teachable' healthcare exchange and opportunity for families to build trust with health providers,” she said.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof David Arthur, dean of AKU's School of Nursing and Midwifery in Pakistan, said that nurses and midwives can help in achieving SDGs if they deliver quality services and contribute to the well-being of individuals, families and communities - which, he said, are basic human rights. Prof Arthur stressed that it is very important to strengthen the connection between midwives and mothers to reduce perinatal - the period immediately before and after birth - mortality rate in Pakistan, particularly in rural areas.

He added that in a country like Pakistan the connection between midwives and mothers can be made stronger through collaboration between government regulators and universities to improve the quality of midwives’ education. “We urgently need to reach mothers and families in rural and remote areas to reduce our perinatal mortality rate, which is around 75 per 1,000 women. A well-educated midwife is capable of improving this rate,” said Prof Arthur.

To improve the skills and status of midwives in the country, he said, there is a need to recognize and allow midwifery-led services in an inter-professional context. “Midwives are more likely to work in rural areas compared to doctors and the evidence shows they can reduce perinatal mortality by up to 83 per cent,” he stated.

Talking about the nurses ' role , Jennifer Anastasi, a visiting faculty member of AKU's School of Nursing and Midwifery and a nursing lecturer at the Charles Darwin University in Australia, said nursing is a value-driven profession of competence, compassion and integrity. “No workday is ever the same and we make a difference in people's lives every day.

AKU alumna Mehmooda Afroz, who is the principal of the Cowasjee School of Midwifery, Lady Dufferin Hospital and secretary general of the Midwifery Association of Pakistan, said that skilled and trained midwives are not only capable of making pregnancies normal and safer but also they can identify complications, if there are any and need a doctor's attention.