A midwife checks a pregnant woman in Uganda. Photo by: The White Ribbon Alliance

BARCELONA — The World Health Organization announced the winner of its inaugural Health for All Film Festival last week on International Nurses Day on May 12. A special tribute to nurses and midwives, the festival saw 1,265 submissions from more than 110 countries that give viewers a glimpse into what drives health care workers to do what they do.

WHO invited filmmakers to participate in three categories: stories about nurses and midwives, animated films, and video reports.

Duty of Care

They may seem like superheroes, but doctors, nurses, midwives, and community health workers need support too. This content series takes a look at how health systems can function better so that health care workers are supported, protected, and empowered.

The winner of the nurse and midwife category, “War and Grace,” depicts the difficulties of running a training school for South Sudanese midwives. Political insecurity forces the school and students to relocate from the small town of Kajo Keji near the border of Uganda, to Juba, where they stubbornly continue their work despite the odds.

Other nominated films portray the diversity of experiences health care workers have and their dedication to their chosen field. Notably, the majority of them are women.

In Mexico, the film "Birth Wars" follows midwives that help women from small towns and villages through pregnancy. The midwives advocate for home birthing as a credible alternative to having a child in hospital, where doctors can sometimes be patronizing, and future mothers may not fully understand their rights to make decisions about their bodies and their babies.

A short film with excerpts from the documentary “Birth Wars.” Via YouTube.

Meanwhile, May Murithi, the maternal health manager of a clinic in Monguno, Nigeria, recounts her day-to-day life working in an area recently devastated by conflict. “The Nigerian Midwives Risking their Lives Caring for Women Living in Makeshift Camps” shows how the clinic serves a community of internally displaced people. By her own admission, Murithi doesn't have a social life — the relatively restrictive conditions mean she can only communicate by radio and commute between the base and the clinic. Yet the rewards of bringing new life into the world ultimately outweigh the drawbacks.

“The Nigerian Midwives Risking their Lives Caring for Women Living in Makeshift Camps.” Via YouTube.

"The Emergency Hospital" follows the plight of Iraqis who were severely injured as a result of conflict between the Iraqi Army and Daesh in 2017. Observations by medical staff about the futility of war — and the impact on children, in particular — paint a somber picture of the physical rehabilitation of both the patients and Iraq as a country. The film aims to show how humans try to live with dignity, whatever the circumstances, and how compassion traverses borders.

“The Emergency Hospital.” Via YouTube.

View more shortlisted films in the nurses and midwives category, and learn more about the film festival.

Visit the Duty of Care series for more coverage on how health systems can function better so that health care workers are supported and protected. You can join the conversation using the hashtag #DutyOfCare.

Explore the series.

About the author

  • Rachel Shue

    Rachel Shue is responsible for Devex's digital content series, liaising with partners and clients, and helping flesh out ideas for new initiatives and events. She is currently based in Barcelona and has previously lived in Laos, South Africa, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Lebanon, working with a range of NGOs, U.N. agencies, and management consulting firms.