Press Release

World Needs Midwives More Than Ever to Keep More Women, Babies Alive, Say Global Health Actors on International Midwives Day

5 May 2006
Author: UNFPA

THE HAGUE/NEW YORK — Urgent support to midwives, especially in developing countries, would save the lives of 5 million women and prevent 80 million illnesses from pregnancy or childbirth by 2015, say the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, on the International Day of the Midwife, 5 May.

Evidence shows that midwives are vital to preventing the estimated 529,000 maternal deaths and 8 million illnesses that occur each year during pregnancy and childbirth. In countries as diverse as Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Tunisia, investments in training, recruiting and retaining midwives, as well as in emergency obstetric care, have reduced maternal death rates. The lives and health of many millions more would be saved with greater investments in midwives.

UNFPA and ICM call for urgent action to address the shortage of midwives if the world is to achieve the international development goals of improving maternal health and reducing child death. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 700,000 more midwives are needed to curb maternal death and illness.

"Addressing the shortage of midwives through education, training and deployment to underserved areas would bring us much closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of improving maternal health," said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA’s Executive Director.

“A strong midwifery profession is the key to achieving safer childbirth, and all women should have access to a midwife,” said Kathy Herschderfer, the Secretary-General of the ICM. “Midwives form the bridge between communities and facilities. They transcend the levels of care within health systems, and are essential to the continuum of care during the childbearing cycle.”

UNFPA and ICM are working together to strengthen midwifery capacity worldwide to reduce the high levels of deaths and disability among mothers and babies. They are cooperating to promote the professionalization of the midwifery practice, to improve national midwifery standards and to help countries scale up community-based midwifery practice.

The International Day of the Midwife was established by the ICM in 1992.


ICM, the heart and voice of midwives across the world, was founded in 1919. It is a Confederation of 88 midwifery associations from 75 countries. Its mission is to advance worldwide the aims and aspirations of midwives in attaining improved outcomes for women in their childbearing years, their babies and their families, wherever they reside.

UNFPA is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

Contact Information:

ICM: Jessica Gonzalez, tel.: + 31 70 3060520, fax: + 31 70 3555651, [email protected]

UNFPA: Abubakar Dungus, tel. +1 (212) 297-5031, [email protected]

16.8 mil
  • Fertility rate
  • Maternal Mortality Ratio
  • Contraceptives prevalence rate
  • Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment:
Boys 90%
Girls 91%