By: Smita Gaith, Women Deliver
May 5 is International Day of the Midwife, a globally recognized day to acknowledge the life-saving work of midwives.
According to the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), more than 340,000 women die preventable maternal deaths each year, and according to the World Health Organization, this number rose to 358,000 in 2008. For every woman who dies, an additional twenty experience infection, injury or disability.
Around the world, midwives play a valuable role in promoting maternal health and preventing needless maternal and newborn deaths. According to a UNFPA report titled “Towards MDG 5: Scaling up the Capacity of Midwives to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity,” professional midwives present a “low-technology, high-quality solution” to the problem of maternal mortality, which occurs in developing countries 99% of the time. In the same report, UNFPA outlines the many skills a professional midwife can offer in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. For example, before and during pregnancy, midwives can be a critical source of advice and information. They can also provide family planning advice and materials. During pregnancy and labor, a trained midwife is able to recognize signs of problems in women and their newborns, and to refer a woman to the appropriate facility. When adequately trained, midwives can also provide emergency care. Through these skills, UNFPA believes that midwives play a key role in achieving MDGs 4 (reduce child mortality), 5 (improve maternal health) and 6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases). In some countries, midwives also provide vaccination services.
To highlight the value of midwives around the world, many organizations are providing materials to explain the role of midwives as skilled birth attendants, pre-natal and post-natal care providers, and family planning counselors.
- The ICM has offered an advocacy package on their website, including a “Midwives Save Lives” wall planner.
- Health Workers Count has developed a film called Going the Distance, which draws attention to the distances some women must travel to reach a midwife, and the need to support the inclusion and recognition of midwives in countries with shortages. They are also inviting others to share their activities and campaign stories on their website.
- White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania has produced a short film, called What I Want is Simple. The purpose is to improve public perception of midwives and mobilize support for advocacy.
Flickr photograph via Roomnoir