Adequate midwifery could save over 3-million lives

Up to 3.6 million lives could be saved every year if midwifery services were upgraded in 58 developing countries by 2015, according to a major new report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in partnership with the University of Southampton and 28 other organisations worldwide.

The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011 reveals new data confirming there is a significant gap between the numbers of midwives practising and those needed to save lives.

There were three huge gaps.

1. there are not enough midwives.
2. women often cannot access care.
3. Most crucially, there is an urgent need to upgrade midwives’ competencies in places where education, regulation and support for the profession are not strong.”

Each year, 358,000 women die while pregnant or giving birth, some two million newborns die within the first 24 hours of life and there are 2.6 million stillbirths, all because of inadequate or insufficient healthcare.

If adequate facilities were accessible to deal with complications at their onset, many deaths could be averted – 61 per cent or nearly two thirds of all maternal deaths, 49 per cent or almost half of stillbirths, and 60 per cent or 3 in 5 newborn deaths. The report adds that if midwives are in place and can refer the most severe complications to specialist care, up to 90 per cent of maternal deaths could be prevented.

“The report points to an urgent need to train more health workers with midwifery skills and ensure equitable access to their life-saving services in communities to improve the health of women and children,” says Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA.

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