Feature Story

02 May 2013

Midwives Deliver for the Women of the World



Celebrating the Work of Midwives

Midwives deliver babies — and they do much more. This slide show, created from photographs submitted by UNFPA Country Offices, shows midwives in action in more than 40 countries.

The world needs midwives more than ever

Chidbirth is perhaps the riskiest and most miraculous time in a woman's life. And midwives are truly the unsung heroines of the challenge to reduce the risks women face in bringing forth life.

Now, armed with better skills and training, midwives are increasingly able to deal with life-threatening emergencies and are playing a critical role in making motherhood safer around the world. It is estimated that trained, well-equipped and supported midwives could save the lives of more than  200,000 women each year, and perhaps ten times that many infants.


UNFPA Delivers for Midwives

Since 2009:

  • Skills of 5,000+ midwifery trainers and tutors have been upgraded.
  • 175 midwifery schools and skills labs equipped
  • Over 35 national and sub national midwifery associations formed
  • 30 needs assessments and action plans completed

But midwives do much more than deliver babies: Pregnancy, whether planned or unintended, is often a key entry-point into the health system. And midwives can provide a welcoming gateway. They often introduce women to the healthcare system and ensure that women and their babies receive a continuum of skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the important days and weeks after birth.

Midwives care for mothers before and after childbirth, they protect the health of newborns, they offer family planning counselling and supplies, they prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and they know when to call for emergency help when complications arise.

Here are some stories about the lives, training, motivations and challenges of midwives who work with UNFPA to deliver for women.


A Multi-pronged Approach to Maternal Health in Lao PDR is Getting Results

SEPON HOSPITAL, Lao PDR — Twenty-five-year-old Xanya had twirled herself around her husband for comfort in the family tak-tak (an open-air cart attached to a motor by a long set of handlebars) along the 12 kilometres of rocky road from their home to the district hospital. He held her, hoping his body would absorb the continuous jolts. She had been in labour for more than ten hours.     More


Rewarding the Heroic Work of Midwives in Afghanistan

KABUL — In mid-December, Maliha walked for five days to reach Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan, in northeastern Afghanistan, to receive her award as best midwife in the province. She felt proud as she went onstage to be honoured for her work in her community health clinic. Though Maliha is just 25 years old, she is a local hero, having delivered hundreds of babies since graduating from the Community Midwives Education Programme six years ago.      More


Bolivia: Training Midwives to Treat Indigenous Mothers with Respect

POCOATA, Bolivia — Bolivia has one of the highest rates of maternal death in the hemisphere, after Guyana and Haiti. The consequences have been devastating, particularly for some of the most vulnerable people in Bolivia – impoverished, rural indigenous women. Access to maternal care has been limited by inadequate infrastructure including medical facilities.      More


Reaching Out to Minorities in Viet Nam with Midwives who Speak their Language

MA DU VILLAGE, Ninh Thuan Province, Viet Nam – After doing some chores on her small farm, Cha Ma Lea Thi Te puts down her farming equipment, washes her hands thoroughly, picks up a kit that includes supplies for an uncomplicated delivery and takes off to visit her clients. She is one of 49 graduates of the 18-month midwife training programme for ethnic minority women supported by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in three mountainous provinces.     More


Midwives Deliver in Uzbekistan

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — Nestling against his mother's breast, the infant, barely two hours old, looked happy and contented. His mother, Ziyoda Karimova, was happy and contented as well. Mother and child were lying in a clean and well equipped birthing room at the Republican Centre for Obstetrics and Gynecology here in the capital. With its modern birthing methods and state-of-the-art equipment, this centre represents the very best of maternal health care in Uzbekistan.      More


Heeding the Call: A Tunisian Midwife Becomes a Humanitarian Worker

CHOUCHA CAMP, Tunisia — As widespread unrest shook Libya in early March 2011, around 1,000 people per hour were crossing the border into Tunisia. Tents quickly sprung in the desert as refugee camps formed near small towns. While international organizations deployed staff and supplies to respond to the crisis, many Tunisians also rushed to the border to offer their skills to help refugees.     More


Improving Midwifery Services in Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — Tajikistan’s maternal mortality ratio is among the highest of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. Fifteen per cent of women giving birth in Tajikistan do so without a midwife or skilled birth attendant to assist. For every 100,000 live births, about 47.5 pregnant women die due to labour and delivery complications. Most of these deaths would be avoidable – if women had access to obstetric care.     More