Call for strengthened skills and investments in midwifery.


On International Day, UN spotlights role of midwives in achieving development targets

In Dinajpur, Bangladesh, Selina Akter, second year midwifery student, plays the role of a mother as students practice postnatal care at the Dinajpur nursing institute. Photo: Nicolas Axelrod/Ruom for UNFPA

5 May 2016 – Every year, some 300,000 women still die during pregnancy and childbirth and almost three million babies do not survive their first four weeks of life, yet a majority of these deaths could be averted by trained midwives, the United Nations said today as it marked the International Day of the Midwife with a call for strengthened skills and investments in midwifery.

“Midwives are our heroes and the backbone of sexual and reproductive health. Let us support them and the women and newborns at the heart of their care,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Saluting the contribution of midwives to saving the lives of women, adolescent girls and newborns, sometimes under very difficult circumstances, the Executive Director emphasized that midwives are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Well-trained and supported midwives working in communities are uniquely positioned to provide the compassionate, respectful and culturally sensitive care a woman needs during pregnancy and childbirth,” Mr. Osotimehin said.

“Midwifery is equally important for newborns during the critical first month of life, and is a significant contribution to sexual and reproductive health in general,” he added.

The International Day of the Midwife is observed around the world on 5 May. This year's theme is Women and Newborns: The Heart of Midwifery.

The UNFPA Executive Director noted that while in the past 25 years, the world has almost halved maternal deaths, the vast majority of these largely preventable deaths take place in developing and crisis-affected countries.

“If deployed in larger numbers, trained midwives could avert approximately two thirds of these deaths. Significant investments in midwifery are essential if the world is to achieve its ambitious goals of reducing maternal and newborn deaths,” Mr. Osotimehin said.

For its part, UNFPA is helping to train and support thousands of midwives in more than 100 countries. The Executive Director highlighted a recent survey estimating that in 57 of these countries, the agency has trained 66,000 midwives over the past seven years.

“These critical health-care providers can help more than 11 million women to give birth safely each year, but much more needs to be done,” the Executive Director said.

“On this International Day of the Midwife, we at UNFPA renew our commitment to working with global partners and countries to strengthen midwifery skills and capacities. We call on countries to acclaim and reward midwives who are working in challenging and hard-to-reach areas, where their services are most needed. We also urge countries to invest in quality training, good working conditions, decent salaries, adequate workforce policies and possibilities for professional growth,” he added.