Curbing the alarming rates of maternal and newborn deaths: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and partners call for urgent action to invest in midwifery
Every two minutes, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth; every 16 minutes, a baby is stillborn – most of these deaths are preventable with access to skilled midwives.
At the 5th Global Midwifery Symposium from 7 to 8 May 2023, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), and over 20 global partners from civil society, academia, the private sector, professional bodies, and donors highlighted the critical role midwives play in ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths, and leading the way in improving quality maternal and newborn care worldwide. Jointly, the partners reaffirm their commitment in improving access to skilled midwives to ensure universal and equitable access to comprehensive maternal and newborn healthcare services.
There is solid evidence that midwives play an important role in stopping preventable maternal and newborn deaths. Well-trained and supported midwives have the potential to provide 90 per cent of all essential sexual, reproductive, maternal, and newborn health services, contributing to 4.3 million lives saved annually by 2035. Midwives also improve women's birthing experiences and reduce healthcare costs. However, midwives represent only 10 per cent of the global health workforce, with a current shortage of 900,000 midwives. Additionally, these health providers, mostly women, are often underpaid and undervalued.
The global context demands urgent action as maternal and newborn mortality reduction rates stagnate in many parts of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 70 per cent of global maternal deaths. The burden of mortality is borne by the poorest or the most disadvantaged living in low- and middle-come countries.
Achieving the target of a global maternal mortality ratio of 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030 requires an annual reduction rate of 11.6 per cent. Universal coverage of midwife-delivered care could prevent more than two-thirds of maternal and newborn deaths worldwide. As the Sustainable Development Goals deadline of 2030 looms near, the Symposium partners pledge to take this commitment forward and integrate midwifery in all respective maternal and newborn health programmes, by speaking with one voice and coordinating with each other to maximize impact.
With the Call to Action, the UN with partners, strongly commit to ensure that every woman and newborn has access to quality, respectful, and rights-based care in all parts of the world.
The call for a stronger collective action towards a healthier, more equitable world for all requires much more commitment from governments, policymakers, donors, and the global health community to join in investing in midwives and the midwifery profession.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNFPA – East and Southern Africa.