This past Monday, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) released a report entitled The State of the World’s Midwifery 2001: Delivering Health, Saving Lives in response to the 'Global Call to Action' issued at the first-ever Symposium on Strengthening Midwifery in Washington D.C. last summer. The report presents data on midwifery around the globe, and provides profiles for 58 participating countries with particularly high rates of maternal and child mortality.
These 58 countries accounted for 58% of total worldwide births in 2009. But only 17% of the world’s skilled birth attendants work in these 58 countries. Looking at those numbers, it’s clear why these nations bear 91% of the global burden of maternal mortality, and account for 80% of stillbirths and 82% of infant deaths. They simply do not have the volume of trained, educated healthcare providers they need to care for pregnant women and their children.
The UNFPA report lays out recommendations for a number of key stakeholders- governments, regulatory bodies, schools and training institutions, professional midwifery associations, international agencies, and donor organizations. Its goal is to provide basic guidelines for improving medical training, patient access, and healthcare regulations.
For now, these are only recommendations, and without clear committments (especially financial) from the governments of the countries in question, it will be difficult to implement the changes needed to improve conditions for pregnant women. That said, the report is definitely a step in the right direction.
For further reading on the issue of midwifery and maternal mortality:
Midwife Burnout Poses Threat to Reducing Maternal Mortality (PovertyMatters)