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Half of world’s pregnant women lack access to skilled care at childbirth – UN agency

Half of world’s pregnant women lack access to skilled care at childbirth – UN agency

Aiming to help save the lives of more than 5 million women and over 45 million newborns by 2015, midwives and public health experts from 20 countries around the world have gathered in Tunisia for the first-ever International Forum on Midwifery in the Community, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported.

Half of the world’s pregnant women still have no access to skilled care at childbirth, the agency said in a news release on the event. This contributes to a persistently high number of mothers and babies who continue to die every day for want of skilled attendance at birth.

To ensure that every pregnant woman and newborn has access to a skilled birth attendant, UNFPA, along with the International Confederation of Midwives, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and their partners are calling on governments to promote midwifery in communities.

Evidence shows that the health and well-being of mothers and their babies have improved in several countries, such as Costa Rica, Egypt, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Tunisia, because of their investment in midwives’ and related training, UNFPA said.

In recent years, some governments in Northern Africa, Eastern and South-east Asia and Latin America have expanded access to skilled birth attendants, resulting in significant improvements in maternal and newborn health, UNFPA said.

The 2005 WHO World Health Report estimated that 334,000 more midwives are required to reduce maternal and newborn death and disability.

“A strong midwifery profession is key to achieving safer childbirth, and all pregnant women should have access to a midwife,” said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid.

The meeting advocates promoting midwifery as a means of reducing maternal and newborn mortality.