Public health experts and midwives gathered in Tunisia on Tuesday for the first International Forum on Midwifery in the Community, urging governments to promote midwifery as a means to decrease maternal and infant death rates. Members from the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and other organizations from 20 countries called on governments to invest in training and supporting midwives in order to ensure that every woman has access to a skilled care provider during childbirth, something the UNFPA identifies as a “woman’s basic human right.” According to the 2005 WHO World Health Report, an estimated 334,000 additional midwives are required to reduce the number of maternal and infant deaths and disabilities during childbirth, the UNFPA cites in its release.
The UNFPA reports that, after an initial investment in midwifery programs, several countries including Costa Rica, Egypt, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Tunisia have seen an improvement in the health and well-being of new mothers and babies. Worldwide, WHO found in 2005 that approximately 530,000 women die from preventable pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes, and that seven million infants die within four weeks of childbirth due to preventable causes, Medical News Today reports.
Kathy Herschderfer, the Secretary General of ICM, told the UNFPA, “Midwives form the bridge between communities and facilities. They transcend the levels of care within health systems, and are essential to the continuum of care during the childbearing cycle.”