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.
The findings have been released by the United Nations Population Fund, in partnership with the University of Southampton and 28 other organisations worldwide.
The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011 report reveals new data confirming there is a significant gap between the numbers of midwives practising and those needed to save lives.
Southampton statistician and social scientist Professor Zoë Matthews said: “We collected completely new data on the midwifery workforces in 58 ‘resource poor’ countries where nearly 60 per cent of the world’s babies are born. What we found were three huge gaps. First, there are not enough midwives. Second, women often cannot access care. Third, and 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.”
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. It reveals that unless competencies among existing midwives are addressed and an additional 112,000 midwives trained, deployed and retained in supportive environments, many of the 58 countries surveyed will not meet their target to achieve the internationally-agreed goal that all pregnant women should have a skilled health worker to assist at the time of birth (as required by United Nations Millennium Development Goal 5 on maternal health).