Midwives save lives of women and children, organizations say

6 May 2013

Midwives save lives of women and children, organizations say

5 May 2013 - Skilled midwives could spell the difference between life and death for close to 300,000 women each year and 10 times that many infants, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) said in a joint statement released today.

Marking International Day of the Midwife, UNFPA and ICM praised midwives for the myriad contributions they made to safe births and the wellbeing of mothers and children around the world.

"In addition to their work caring for women during and after childbirth ... midwives provide a wide range of assistance in humanitarian emergencies," the statement said. "And they train and supervise community health workers to provide health information and promote safer practices."

Midwives were also key in ensuring universal access to voluntary family planning, said the statement. This alone could help prevent 87 million unintended pregnancies -- so many of which resulted in unsafe abortions in developing countries -- and close to a third of all maternal deaths.

"About 222 million women want to delay or avoid pregnancies, but lack the modern means to do so," according to 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 South Sudan, midwives were vital in reducing maternal mortality, as they provided skilled birth attendance, family planning and emergency obstetric care, said Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, UNFPA Deputy Representative in South Sudan.

He noted that maternal mortality in South Sudan was estimated at 2,054 deaths per 100,000 live births, "perhaps the highest in the world".

The statement observed that economic differences, inequalities in countries and inaccessibility of services in some areas contributed to a shortage of some 350,000 midwives when the world needed them more than ever.

Addressing this lack in South Sudan, UNFPA was supporting the government 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 year, about 500 health workers will graduate from these institutions, including 200 to 300 midwives," he said.