More midwives mean millions of women’s lives saved – UN agency

8 May 2006 – Recruiting midwives, especially in developing countries, would save the lives of 5 million women and prevent 80 million illnesses from pregnancy or childbirth by 2015, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“Addressing the shortage of midwives through education, training and deployment to underserved areas would bring us much closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of improving maternal health,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said in a joint statement with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) marking International Day of the Midwife celebrated on 5 May.

Evidence shows that midwives are vital to preventing the estimated 529,000 maternal deaths and 8 million illnesses that occur each year during pregnancy and childbirth, UNFPA said.

“In countries as diverse as Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Tunisia, investments in training, recruiting and retaining midwives, as well as in emergency obstetric care, have reduced maternal death rates. The lives and health of many millions more would be saved with greater investments in midwives,” it added.

UNFPA and ICM are working together to strengthen midwifery capacity worldwide to reduce the high levels of deaths and disability among mothers and babies. They are cooperating to promote the professionalization of the midwifery practice, to improve national midwifery standards and to help countries scale up community-based midwifery practice.

ICM, founded in 1919, is a confederation of 88 midwifery associations from 75 countries. Its mission is to advance worldwide the aims and aspirations of midwives in attaining improved outcomes for women in their childbearing years, their babies and their families, wherever they reside.

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