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Report Warns of Midwife Shortages in More Than 70 Countries

  • Joe DeCapua

A new report said there’s a severe shortage of midwives in more than 70 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Those countries suffer 96 percent of the world’s maternal deaths and more than 90 percent of stillbirths and newborn deaths.

The report is a joint publication of the U.N. Population Fund, the International Confederation of Midwives, the World Health Organization and others.

Population fund Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said, “Midwives are the unsung heroes of maternal, newborn health. Indeed, they are the unsung heroes for public health in the world.”

Also on hand for the release of The State of the World’s Midwifery 2014 report was Frances Day-Stirk, president of the midwives confederation.

She said, “Addressing the shortages of midwives and midwifery services across low and middle income countries could save the lives of millions of women and newborns each year. And the report calls for urgent investment in high quality midwifery care to prevent about two-thirds of all maternal and newborn deaths. Millions of lives saved.”

The report said investing in midwifery education and training would help close – what it calls – glaring gaps in maternal and newborn health care. And the return on the investment, it said, would be huge.

“Midwives can perform about 87 to 90 percent of essential care for women and newborns, but only when they’re educated to global standards,” said Day-Stirk.

This year’s midwifery report is titled A Universal Pathway, A Woman’s Right to Health. It said that “countries should consider the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of the midwifery workforce in order to provide quality services.” It goes on to say that many countries have begun taking “bold steps” to improve midwifery.

Day-Stirk said, “Saving those lives does not only mean preventing personal tragedies for families, it also means more productivity for the women and the babies who survive and thrive and the babies who grow into healthy adults.”

UNFPA chief Osotimehin added, “All women need and deserve respectful, compassionate care before, during and after pregnancy and birth.”
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