Midwives can make the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of women every year, the United Nations population agency affirmed today, recognizing their crucial role in improving maternal health, family planning and assisting during humanitarian emergencies.
“Economic differences, inequalities in countries and inaccessibility of services in some areas contribute to a shortage of some 350,000 midwives at a time when the world needs midwives more than ever,” the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Confederation of Midwives said in a joint “statement” to mark the International Day of the Midwife, observed on 5 May.
“We urge all nations to work together to address the inequalities and inaccessibility of midwifery services. We encourage them to support quality training, innovative technologies and an enabling environment for midwives to match the vital role they play in communities and societies, especially in developing countries.”
According to UNFPA, midwives save the lives of some 300,000 women each year and 10 times as many infants. They are also key in ensuring universal access to voluntary family planning, and this alone could help prevent 87 million unintended pregnancies as well as unsafe abortions and maternal deaths.
“About 222 million women want to delay or avoid pregnancies, but lack the modern means to do so,” said the statement. “Midwives' invaluable counselling skills are instrumental in empowering young couples and women to make the decisions that are right for their particular situations.”
In addition to caring for women during and after childbirth, midwives also provide a wide range of assistance in humanitarian agencies, and they train and supervise community health workers to provide information and promote safer practices during crises.
In South Sudan, where maternal mortality is estimated at 2,054 deaths for every 100,000 live births, midwives are vital in reducing maternal mortality, as they provide skilled birth attendance, family planning and emergency obstetric care, UNFPA Deputy Representative in South Sudan, Bannet Ndyanabangi said.
UNFPA is supporting the Government there to train midwives in four health training institutions – Maridi, Kajo Keji, Wau and Juba College of Nursing and Midwives, with support from the Canadian International Development Agency, Dr. Ndyanabangi said.
“We hope that in the next four to five years, about 500 health workers will graduate from these institutions, including 200 to 300 midwives,” he said.