Press Release

07 June 2010

Global Health Leaders Issue Call to Action to Increase Number of Midwives in Developing World

Experts say that midwives are critical to save lives and achieve international health goals

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Global health leaders at Women Deliver, the world’s largest maternal health conference, have called on the G-8 and G-20 to dramatically increase investments in midwifery services in developing countries.

“The world needs midwives now more than ever. Countries need to make midwifery a priority in plans and budgets. No woman should die giving life and we need to move from speech lines to budget lines,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of women die in developing countries as a result of pregnancy and childbirth and over three million newborns do not survive the first week of life. Many of these deaths result from the simple fact that there is a severe lack of trained personnel with midwifery skills to assist women during pregnancy and childbirth. It is estimated that midwives could help avert over 90 per cent of all maternal deaths if they are well trained and empowered to apply their skills.

“The Call to Action requests that Governments develop clear standards on midwifery education and regulation in order to provide effective midwifery services. The global health community is speaking with one voice, demanding that both donors and governments step up their investment in midwifery. Progress has been too slow,” said Bridget Lynch, President of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).

In countries that have achieved dramatic improvements in maternal mortality rates, professionally trained midwives have been a key to success. Yet today, the training of midwives is inconsistent and the profession of midwifery often garners little recognition, meager income and limited career opportunities. These factors contribute to the acute shortage of these valuable health workers.

The Global Call to Action encourages governments to focus on the specific steps needed to strengthen midwifery services. These include: improving education and training; strengthening laws, regulations and midwifery associations; and enhancing the recruitment and retention of midwives. If these actions are prioritized in all countries, rapid progress is possible towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals and reducing child death, improving maternal health and combating HIV and AIDS, according to the Call.

Midwives are a critical part of a functioning health system that delivers for women and children. Beyond assisting with pregnancy and childbirth, they can address a variety of issues, including provision of family planning, care for newborns and children, nutritional support and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

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The Global Call to Action was the result of a Midwifery Symposium held in Washington D.C., on 5-6 June, organized by UNFPA and ICM in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA), Jhpiego, International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank. The Symposium brought together over 200 midwives from around the world, civil society, policy makers and donors to raise awareness on the critical role of midwifery services in achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 (child mortality), 5 (maternal health) and 6 (HIV/AIDS).

Interviews with experts, including midwives, are available following the press conference or by request.
Media contact: Jessica Malter, UNFPA: mobile: +1 646 732 0047, malter@unfpa.org

For more information, please go to:
www.unfpa.org
www.internationalmidwives.org

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, 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.

UNFPA – because everyone counts

The International Confederation of Midwives supports, represents and works to strengthen professional associations of midwives on a global basis. At present ICM has 98 Member Associations in 87 countries. The ICM works with midwives and midwifery associations globally to secure women’s right and access to midwifery care before, during and after childbirth.