Ha Noi, 10 November 2011 – Up to 358,000 maternal deaths could be avoided each year in 58 developing countries if midwifery services are upgraded by 2015, according to key findings presented in “The State of the World’s Midwifery Report 2011” launched today in Ha Noi by the Ministry of Health and the United Nations in Viet Nam.
The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011: “Delivering Health, Saving Lives”, launched at the Triennial Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) in Durban, South Africa in June 2011, unveiled new data confirming there is a significant gap between the number and status of midwives practicing and those needed to save lives.
“Ensuring that every woman and her newborn have access to quality midwifery services demands that we take bold steps to build on what we have achieved so far across communities, countries, regions and the world,” said Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his foreword to the report.
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 health care.
The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011 reveals that, unless an additional 112,000 midwives are trained, deployed and retained in supportive environments, 38 of 58 countries surveyed might not meet their target to achieve 95 per cent coverage of births by skilled attendants by 2015, as required by Millennium Development Goal 5, on maternal health. Globally, 350,000 midwives are still lacking.
“Without an increase in the number of midwives who account for the majority of skilled birth attendants, supported by further improvement of their clinical skills to ensure they meet the global standards, pregnant women and newborns will continue to die needlessly. We have evidence that if midwives are in place and can stabilize and refer the most severe complications to specialized care, up to 90 per cent of maternal deaths could be prevented,” said Bruce Campbell, Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Viet Nam.
Most maternal and newborn death and disabilities occur in low-income countries and happen because women – often poor and marginalized – have limited, or no access to a functioning health facility or to qualified health professionals, notably those with midwifery skills.
Increasing women’s access to quality midwifery services has become a focus of global efforts to realize the right of every woman to the best possible health care during pregnancy and childbirth. It is also at the heart of three health-related Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality (MDG 4), improve maternal health (MDG 5) and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (MDG 6).
In addition to inadequate numbers of midwives, the report reveals that coverage within countries is unequal, as is the quality of services being provided. There is a shortage of training institutions and employment opportunities for midwives. In addition, poor regulation, weak professional associations, an incomplete policy environment, and the omission of midwifery from human resource costing plans for maternal and neonatal health are significant challenges.
"Midwifery and midwifery practice play a crucial role in Viet Nam’s maternal and newborn health care system. A skilled midwifery workforce, the majority of skilled birth attendants, with high competencies, motivated and supported by the health care system, is key to successfully reducing maternal and newborn mortality and contributes to achieving MDGs 4 ,5 and 6," said Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Health.
The report also makes a series of recommendations to governments, regulatory bodies, educational institutions, professional associations and international organizations that would help remedy these problems and reinforce the status of midwifery in the 58 countries surveyed.
The lives and health of millions of women and children would be saved if countries and the donor community invested more in midwife training and retention. High-level political commitment, both nationally and internationally, is required to address the problem of the shortfall in skilled birth attendants.
“We need to join efforts to ensure that midwives have appropriate employment, protection, remuneration, incentives and motivation. Midwives don’t only deliver babies, they also offer many related services before and after the delivery. They are crucial in the communities and to the survival of women and children,” said Wu Guogao, Officer-In-Charge of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Viet Nam in his closing remarks of the workshop.
For further information, please contact:
- Ms Nghiem Xuan Hanh | Maternal and Child Health Department - MOH | Tel: (84-4) 3 8237 299 | Email:email@example.com
- Ms Nguyen Thi Hong Thanh | UN Communications Team | Tel: (84-4) 3822 4383 – Ext: 117 | Email:firstname.lastname@example.org