HA NOI, 24 July 2012. The Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Midwifery was organized today in Ha Noi by the Viet Nam Association of Midwives (VAM) in collaboration with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and the Ministry of Health (MOH), with financial support from the UN in Viet Nam (UNFPA and WHO).
The conference provided a great opportunity for more than 500 participants from 36 countries in the world to share knowledge and experiences, which will generate very practical ideas and approaches to increasing women’s access to quality midwifery services.
According to the State of the World’s Midwifery launched in June 2011, more than one in three women in developing countries give birth alone - or with only relatives to oversee what is one of the most critical passages they will ever undergo. In some of the poorest countries, as few as 13 per cent of all deliveries are assisted by a midwife or a health worker with the specific midwifery skills that are required to save lives.
The current global shortage of some 350,000 professional midwives means that women and their newborns die from complications that could have been easily prevented by a health worker, in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills, the right equipment and the right support of the health system.
Addressing the conference, Vice Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien appreciated the effective support from the Viet Nam Association of Midwives in delivering reproductive health care and saving the lives of many Vietnamese women, especially women in remote, mountainous and hard-to-reach areas. He also emphasized that the conference was a great opportunity for health workers from developing countries to learn from experiences from developed countries in the world.
According to data from the MOH and other population based surveys, Viet Nam has made substantial progress on strengthening safe motherhood and newborn health services. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is 16 per thousand live births, and the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) has fallen to 69 per 100,000 live births. The report "Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990-2010" by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank released in 2011 shows that Viet Nam was among ten countries who are on the right track to achieving the MDG5 on reducing the MMR by 75 per cent.
However, it should be noted that the country still has many challenges to address. "There are still big demographic differences between the river deltas and mountainous areas, with higher MMR in remote and ethnic minority areas. It is also important to strengthen the health system and to invest in health workers with midwifery skills, and ensure access to emergency obstetric care when complications arise. These measures, if implemented comprehensively in Viet Nam, would not only save many lives, but would also improve the nation’s economic and social productivity. This is a highly cost-effective public health strategy," said Ms Mandeep K. O'Brien, UNFPA Representative a.i. in Viet Nam at the conference. She added that in countries that have achieved dramatic improvements in prevention of maternal deaths, professionally trained midwives have been a key to success.
Within the framework of the Government of Viet Nam and UN One Plan (2012-2016), the UN in Viet Nam, including UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO and UNAIDS, is committed to support Viet Nam in health system strengthening by addressing the human resource shortfall in skilled birth attendants, reinforcing the status of midwifery, developing their competencies in line with regional and international standards and empowering midwives to provide the health-care services they are trained to deliver.
Click here to read the speech from the UN in Viet Nam