South Asian Midwives Meet to Plan Better Maternal Health Care

  • 25 March 2010

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Three out of five women giving birth in South Asia do so without a midwife or other skilled birth attendant on hand, a major reason some 44 per cent of maternal deaths worldwide occur in the subregion. In an effort to find ways to strengthen midwifery services and reduce maternal and neonatal deaths, 50 midwives from six South Asian countries exchanged experiences here this week.

The five-day workshop was organized by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), and was hosted by BRAC, a Bangladeshi NGO. It was the first meeting in Asia of the global Investing in Midwives Programme launched by ICM and UNFPA in 2008.

The workshop aimed to develop a comprehensive framework for midwifery services in the subregion based on identified priorities and gaps, and to launch national work plans for the next two or three years.

Participants represented midwifery associations and nursing councils from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Senior officials from Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, midwifery educators from the region and programme advisers from UNFPA, the World Health Organization and ICM also took part.

At the meeting, there was broad agreement that the practice of midwifery would be more effective if all countries considered it to be a profession in its own right, distinct from nursing, and organized training programmes and service guidelines accordingly. This approach would also reduce the resources devoted to training people for careers they do not intend to pursue.

“There is a sense here of an incredible accomplishment,” said UNFPA adviser, Dr. Vincent Fauveau. “This was South Asia’s first workshop on strategic planning for midwifery. And under the guidance of the ICM, we quickly reached a consensus on a sound framework that combines education, regulation and professional association.”

“Midwifery has been neglected for several decades in this region of the world which needs it most,” said ICM President Bridget Lynch. “It is time that this profession be recognized once again as the best form of care for mothers and their newborns.”

Midwives working at health facilities and attending home deliveries are central in saving the lives of mothers and newborns by providing basic emergency obstetric and newborn care and timely referrals when hospital services are required. They also help families make informed choices about preventing unwanted pregnancies and provide counselling and services in all aspects of sexual and reproductive life.

Reducing maternal deaths is one of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG 5); averting early newborn deaths is MDG 4.

Contact Information:

In Dhaka:
Asma Akter
Tel: +880 20814 4933

In Bangkok:
William A. Ryan
Tel: +66 89 897 6984 

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