Stories of Midwives: Voices from the Field

20 June 2011
Author: UNFPA
Stories of Midwives: Voices from the Field


"I became a midwife because I knew too many women were dying during pregnancy,” explains Huma Awar Sumadi, a midwife in Khaspak, Afghanistan.

Huma’s is one of many voices that make up a new multimedia exhibition launched today at the International Confederation of Midwives Congress in Durban, South Africa. profiles midwives – linchpins of an effective reproductive health care system – and the incredible work they do to ensure that women receive quality and dignified care before, during and after childbirth. It is the latest exhibition in a series developed by White Ribbon Alliance with UNFPA, following and .

Stories of Midwives weaves together a diverse array of narratives from the perspectives of midwives, midwifery students, mothers, health care workers, community leaders and others whose lives have been impacted by midwives. Individuals from North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean have already contributed to the project.

"All pregnant women should have access to skilled care at the time of birth and after delivery. Without more human resources for maternal health, pregnant women and newborns will continue to die needlessly. The Stories of Midwives bear witness to this fact," said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director.

The exhibition launch and other events in Durban this week are designed to bring the voices of midwives and those touched by their care to a global stage. On Saturday, 18 June 2011, 3,000 midwives from around the world marched in Durban in solidarity to call for improvements to maternal and newborn care globally. Also today, UNFPA and 29 partners launched The State of the World's Midwifery Report 2011, based on a survey of 58 countries representing 81 million births a year -- more than half of the world's total. The 2011 International Confederation of Midwives Triennial Congress wraps up later this week.

Midwives provide care to pregnant women, mothers and newborns in some of the world’s most difficult conditions. They often lack the support they need to save lives, including essential medicines, communication and transportation networks and a health system able to provide emergency obstetric care. This is especially true in rural environments, where the majority of the world’s births occur.

On average, communities need at least six midwives per 1,000 births. However, new data released today reveals that in many countries with the highest rates of maternal death, there is less than one midwife per 1,000 live births.

Read the stories here and hear their messages in this video.