Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Invest in Midwives

U.N. Report Calls for Investment in Midwives To Reduce Maternal, Infant Mortality

June 22, 2011 — More investment in midwifery could save millions of infants and hundreds of thousands of women who die annually because of a lack of access to skilled health care during childbirth, according to a United Nations Population Fund report released Monday, Reuters reports.
The report -- the U.N.'s first study on midwives -- found that 358,000 women and 3.6 million infants die annually because of largely preventable complications during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. About another three million infants are stillborn, the report found. The report surveyed 58 countries, studying the equivalent of about 60% of all births and 91% of maternal deaths worldwide.

Countries need a minimum of six skilled birth attendants for every 1,000 births to achieve 95% of needed coverage, the report concluded. A total of 38 countries need more midwives, 22 of which need to double their midwifery workforce by 2015. Seven countries need to at least triple or quadruple their workforce, while nine countries need to increase the number of midwives by between six and 15 times (Kelland, Reuters, 6/20). 

Dozens of aid, development and educational institutions endorsed the report and asked governments and philanthropists to invest in midwives, the AP/Washington Times reports. Vincent Fauveau, a physician who worked on the study, said that midwives can provide a solution for countries with shortages of doctors and nurses. Midwives also can provide contraceptive counseling and services, he said. War, poverty and hunger threaten women and children in many parts of the developing world, he explained, adding that "a long-term strategy" and many investments are needed to save lives (Bryson,AP/Washington Times, 6/20).

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