KUALA LUMPUR—Two thirds of maternal and newborn deaths – 3.6 million between now and 2015 – could be averted if enough skilled midwives were providing care during childbirth. How to make high-quality midwifery more available, accessible, socially and culturally acceptable was the focus of discussion at the Second Global Midwifery Symposium here on 26 and 27 May in advance of the Women Deliver Conference. The event was organized by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the International Confederation of Midwives.
Participants including representatives of 29 organizations issued a statement pledging their commitment to champion midwifery. Many countries have stepped up training and deployment of midwives, but as delegates heard from speakers, there are still major challenges to make services available, especially in poor rural communities. Regulatory barriers and inadequate financing are among the persistent challenges.
“Midwives need the space and opportunity to play a far larger role if we are to meet the challenges of the MDGs,” UNFPA Deputy Executive Director Kate Gilmore told the meeting.
The statement calls on governments and partners to increase investments in the midwifery workforce and education to accelerate progress towards MDG5, deploy midwives where they are needed most, promote care that is woman centred and respectful, reform regulations and licensing, support professionals associations advocating for midwifery, and collect evidence to address the challenges.
An innovative teaching tool was introduced at the symposium, the product of a partnership among UNFPA, the Intel corporation, the World Health Organization and Jhpiego, a non-profit organization supporting reproductive health education. The customizable e-learning program will use an Intel platform to bring midwifery skills to health workers, including those without online access. It can also be used to monitor and assess services.