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Statement by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, and Frances Day-Stirk, President, International Confederation of Midwives

Globally, in the past two decades, maternal death has declined by nearly half. In the same period, skilled birth attendance has increased by 15 per cent, with two out of three deliveries worldwide now attended by a skilled health professional. With just over 600 days left until the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline, concerted efforts are required to scale up cost-effective interventions in educating midwives and other professionals with midwifery skills. Such investments are critical to accelerating efforts to improve maternal health and achieve MDG5, one of the goals lagging farthest behind.

Access to quality health care is a basic human right. Yet, nearly 40 million women give birth without skilled care, increasing the risk of death and disability for both the mother and newborn. The world needs midwives now more than ever. Investments in midwives can help avert a significant number of the nearly 290,000 maternal deaths and three million newborn deaths that occur every year due to the lack of well-educated and regulated health workers and adequate facilities. And midwives deliver more than babies: they also provide other life-saving reproductive health information and services, including antenatal, postnatal care and family planning.

New evidence on the returns that investments in midwifery bring will be released in June 2014, when the second State of the World's Midwifery report is launched at the International Confederation of Midwives’ Triennial Congress in Prague, the Czech Republic. The report – a joint effort of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund; the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM); the World Health Organization (WHO) and several global partners – will disclose the latest data from 73 countries that account for more than 95 per cent of global maternal, newborn and child deaths. The new data will improve the evidence base in this area, help mobilize leadership and action in high-burden countries to strengthen maternal and newborn health services, and facilitate the provision of quality midwifery services to pregnant women and their babies.

On this International Day of the Midwife, UNFPA and the ICM applaud all committed midwives who work beyond the call of duty, most often in difficult circumstances and with limited resources, to provide maternal and newborn care to women and girls around the world.

We jointly reaffirm our pledge to support midwives globally as we work towards the goal of ensuring that every pregnancy is safe and that universal access to sexual and reproductive health services is a reality for all.


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