By: Janna Oberdorf, Director of Communications and Outreach for Women Deliver
Today, May 5th, is International Day of the Midwife. The world needs midwives now more than ever. The World Health Organization, UN agencies and other global partners have identified that midwives are key to achieving reductions in maternal and newborn deaths and disabilities globally, yet there is a serious shortage.
Up to 90 percent of the 358,000 maternal deaths that occur every year can be prevented when midwives and personnel with midwifery skills are authorized and supported by the health system to practice their full set of competencies, including basic emergency obstetric and newborn care. In addition midwives improve the sexual and reproductive health of individuals and couples, including adolescents, by providing family planning services and counseling, and HIV prevention, including the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 334,000 midwives are needed to fill the gaps in high-mortality countries by 2015.
In honor of International Day of the Midwife, the Guardian asked midwives from across Africa about the chances of their country hitting the targets of the fifth millennium development goal - to improve maternal health - and what governments need to do to address the issue. Unsurprisingly, the answer is often, "not enough is being done." A global shortage of midwives is reducing the chances of countries hitting Millennium Development Goal 5 to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality rate.
What can you do?
- Read personal stories from midwives across Africa.
- Learn more about the importance of midwives in saving the lives of mothers.
- Tell the Guardian what you think about the progress of the MDGs.
- Read "A Global Call to Action" drafted by over 200 midwives at the Women Deliver 2010 conference.
- Join a March for Midwives.
- Get inspired by three midwives honored on the Women Deliver 100 list of the most inspiring people delivering for girls and women, below.
Juliette Coulibaly, Côte d'Ivoire / Imtiaz Kamal, Pakistan / Dorothy Ngoma, Malawi