Nearly 3.6 million lives could be saved in 58 developing countries around the world with scaled-up midwifery services, according to a report launched today by UNFPA and partners called The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011. Of these 58 countries, 38 were found to be lagging behind in meeting MDG 5 (reducing maternal mortality by 75%). Unless an additional 112,000 midwives are trained, deployed and retained in supportive environments, these 38 countries might not meet their target to achieve 95 percent coverage of births by skilled attendants by 2015, as required by Millennium Development Goal 5, on maternal health. Globally, 350,000 midwives are still lacking.
358,000 women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth. These deaths are largely due to a lack of access to functioning health facilities or trained professionals, and poor women are particularly vulnerable. The presence of quality care facilities to address life-saving complications would reduce maternal deaths by 61%; stillbirths by 49%; and three in every five newborn deaths. With trained midwives in place, and referral services available for severe cases, up to 90% of maternal deaths could be prevented.
“The report points to an urgent need to train more health workers with midwifery skills and ensure equitable access to their life-saving services in communities to improve the health of women and children,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA.
The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011, coordinated by UNFPA, is the result of collaboration among 30 partners, whose collective aim is to strengthen midwifery practices to prevent maternal death and disability and improve the health of newborns, families, and entire communities.
“This report clearly identifies the need to create a competent, active midwifery workforce, working as a key part of an effective health-care system. In addition, ICM’s new global standards for midwifery education and regulation will assist governments and policy makers to address the report’s recommendations,” said Bridget Lynch, President of the International Confederation of Midwives.
For these midwives to be able to deliver life-saving services, they need to be adequately cared for as well. Midwives are often overworked and underpaid. A recent paper on maternal health staff in Malawi found that 75% of staff reported emotional exhaustion, and 74% reported reduced personal accomplishment.
Transforming the MDGs into a reality requires consolidated efforts. The world needs more midwives, but also better functioning facilities, scaled-up health systems, and human resources that support maternal care staff in the work that they do. For MDG 5 to fall into place, all of these pieces must come together.
- Learn more about the State of the World's Midwifery
- Read the full report in English: http://bit.ly/jD5lAL; French: http://bit.ly/lIIX8Q; Spanish: http://bit.ly/iY5r5e