According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year 2 million women and babies die each year in pregnancy or childbirth. 95% of these deaths occur in just 68 countries. “Countdown to 2015” is “global movement of academics, governments, UN agencies, foundations, health care associations and nongovernmental organizations formed in 2005 to track progress in reducing maternal and child deaths”.
According to the latest WHO report, 700,000 new midwives are needed by 2015 “to accelerate progress towards reducing child mortality and improving maternal health”.
Midwives play a vital role in both developed and developing countries, but the WHO recognizes their greatest need and impact are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where only half of all women have any form of care during pregnancy and childbirth. 330,000 new midwives are needed in these regions. Voice of America explains:
If we can get midwifery coverage out there, we can reduce maternal and infant morbidity and mortality by 90 percent. And that will make a tremendous difference to the health and well being of mothers and their newborns,” said Bridget Lynch, the president of the International Confederation of Midwives…
Bridget Lynch says midwives have not gotten the respect they deserve and are often poorly paid.
“Governments have been trying to find cheaper, quicker fixes in terms of educating different [cadres?] of health care workers with midwifery skills, and the world is not recognizing the need. We need to educate midwives to supervise these [cadres?], to be training them and also to be providing services on the ground,” she said.
The study also finds that the most infant deaths occur during the first four weeks of life. Pneumonia, diarrhea and “undernutrition” are leading causes of death to children beyond the newborn stage. The maternal death is largely caused by “postpartum haemorrhage, largely preventable through skilled care during childbirth.” Even though WHO is calling for 700,000 new midwives, the good news is “Over the past two decades coverage of a skilled attendant at birth has improved in all regions, with considerable gains in North Africa and South-East Asia.”