Upgraded midwifery services could save up to 3.6 million lives every year, reveals UN report.
The State of the World's Midwifery 2011 revealed new data confirming there is a significant gap between the numbers of midwives practising and those needed to save lives.
"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, said Southampton statistician and social scientist Professor Zoe Matthews.
"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," added Matthews.
"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," said Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA.
The State of the World's Midwifery 2011 also revealed 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).
The report has been revealed at the Triennial Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) in Durban, South Africa.