International Day of the Midwife

International Day of the Midwife

Message of Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund

05 May 2007

Today on the International Day of the Midwife, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, pays tribute to midwives around the world. We join others in voicing our appreciation for the loving care these skilled health workers provide. And we call for urgent action to address the shortage of midwives in many countries.

In every country, women and families count on midwives to ensure a safe delivery and healthy newborn. Midwives make a tremendous contribution to the health of mothers and babies worldwide.

Yet, one half of the world’s pregnant women still lack access to skilled care at childbirth and the consequences are devastating. Every year, an estimated 529,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, 4 million newborn die, and another 4 million babies are stillborn. This is more than the combined total of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria deaths. In addition, 10 million more women suffer debilitating injuries such as infertility, uterine prolapse or obstetric fistula. Skilled assistance is critical to lowering the number of women killed or injured while giving birth. It is estimated that ensuring skilled attendance in delivery, backed up by emergency obstetric care, could reduce maternal deaths by about 75 per cent.

The theme of this year’s observance, “Midwives reach out to women – wherever they live”, reminds us of the importance of ensuring the presence of midwives in communities where their services are urgently needed. Today, UNFPA calls for greater investment in the training, recruitment, pay and working conditions of midwives. Some 700,000 more midwives are needed to provide universal access to skilled care at birth.

The world can make greater progress in improving maternal health by ensuring access to skilled attendance at delivery, emergency obstetric care if complications arise and family planning. These reproductive health services save lives.

UNFPA reiterates its call to governments and their partners to increase investment in reproductive health as an urgent priority. With this year marking the 20th anniversary of the Safe Motherhood Initiative, there is no better time than now to strengthen health systems and health workforces to protect the health of mothers, children and families.

To make pregnancy safer and ensure that no woman dies giving life, UNFPA will continue to work within the United Nations system in support of governments and civil society to guarantee universal access to reproductive health.

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