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Additional, Better-Trained Midwives Needed To Save Millions Of Women And Newborns Worldwide, Report Says

“According to a United Nations Population Fund study released Monday, more and better trained midwives could help save millions of lives in” 58 countries “identified as ‘suffering from a crisis in human resources for health,'” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. The countries surveyed, two-thirds of which are in Africa, “accounted for 58 percent of all the world’s births in 2009 – but 80 percent of stillbirths around the world, 82 percent of newborn deaths and 91 percent of maternal deaths,” according to the news service (Bryson/Paye-Layleh, 6/20).

According to a WHO press release, “Among the 38 countries most desperately in need of midwives, 22 need to double the workforce by 2015; seven need to triple or quadruple it; and nine countries – Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan – need to dramatically scale up midwifery by a factor of between 6 and 15. The report estimates that countries require a minimum of six skilled birth attendants per 1000 births if they are to achieve the aim of 95% coverage” (6/20).

The report, titled “State of the World’s Midwifery 2011,” shows 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 percent 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,” according to a joint press release (.pdf) from the report’s co-authors (6/20).

The report, which was released at the Triennial Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives in Durban, South Africa, was co-authored by “several U.N. agencies – including the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – and more than 20 international partners,” the U.N. News Centre notes (6/17).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.