Feature Story

05 May 2011

Celebrating the Essential Work of Midwives

Honouring midwives for their important contributions

Today, on the International Day of the Midwife, UNFPA joins with the International Confederation of Midwives and other partners to recognize the vital role midwives play in the global challenge to ensure that no woman dies giving life.

"Midwives deliver - and not only babies," said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin in a statement.  "They save lives and promote good health in societies as a whole.  They are an essential workforce in an effective healthcare system."

The world currently faces a shortage of some 350,000 midwives.  As a result, women and their newborns die from complications that could have been easily prevented by a health worker with the right skills, the right equipment and the right support.

UNFPA offices around the world will observe the day through a variety of activities that underline the important role that midwives play within their communities.  These activities range from public marches, conferences and debates, to campaigns to raise awareness of conditions such as cervical cancer and obstetric fistula.

The critical role of midwives in the challenge to save the lives of mothers and newborns will also be the theme of a major report that will be launched at the Triennial Conference of the International Confederation of Midwives in Durban, South Africa, in June. The State of World Midwifery aims to strengthen midwifery, in part, by providing new information and data gathered from 60 countries in all regions of the world to:

  • examine the number and distribution of health professionals involved in the delivery of midwifery services
  • explore emerging issues related to education, regulation, professional associations, policies and external aid
  • analyse global issues regarding health personnel with midwifery skills, most of whom are women, and the constraints and challenges that they face in their lives and work
  • call for accelerating investments for scaling up midwifery services, as well as “skilling up” the respective providers.

The report will include statistical tables and applicable global standards, collating relevant midwifery information.

One theme of the report --  and of a new multimedia presentation  created from images by UNFPA  country offices around the world -- is that midwives are the unsung heroes of maternal and newborn health, and that their vital and multiple roles within the healthcare workforce should be fully recognized and acknowledged.