State of World’s Midwifery: New Report to Document Birth Attendance in 60 Countries

13 January 2011
Author: UNFPA
A corps of skilled midwives, like these who were trained through a UNFPA-supported programme in Darfur, are key to improving pregnancy outcomes. Photo: Torr Svenson.

The health of women and their newborns took centre stage in global development discussions in 2010, when the United Nations Secretary?General launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

While the closely linked Millennium Development Goal 5 (improve maternal health) and Millennium Development Goal 4 (reduce child mortality) remain the least advanced of the MDGs, progress is finally underway, as reflected in last year’s news that the number of maternal deaths had declined by a third.

The role of skilled birth attendants, in particular midwives and others with midwifery skills, is widely acknowledged as being crucial to continued progress.

In addition to historical evidence from Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom, quality midwifery is a well documented component of success in saving the lives of women and newborns in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Tunisia.

However, recent analyses show that both midwifery personnel and services are unequally distributed – both between and within countries. Hence, it is time to take stock and document the situation in countries with high maternal and newborn mortalityThis will be presented in a new publication entitled The State of the World’s Midwifery.

The report, which will be the first of its kind, is intended to strengthen midwifery capacity around the world. It will provide new information and data from 60 countries (accounting for 97 per cent of all maternal deaths) 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 improving the skills of health care workers

The report is being produced by a coalition of leading players in the field, spearheaded by UNFPA. The report will be released at the Triennial Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives in Durban, South Africa, 20 June 2011.

"The joint report will provide much needed data and analysis for advocacy and action in the hardest hit countries. A lot of women will depend on this work," said Vincent Fauveau, senior maternal health adviser for UNFPA and the manager of the report.

For further information on the report, please contact Vincent Fauveau: .    

For media and communication inquiries, please contact Katja Iversen:

South Africa
Population : 59.3 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 65%
Girls 79%

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