International Day of the Midwife

05 May 2008

Message of Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director

Every day, midwives are saving women’s lives by making delivery safe. Their essential care before, during and after delivery ensures that no woman dies giving life. When women are healthy, families are healthy. And when families are healthy, the well-being of communities and nations also improves.

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Today, on the International Day of the Midwife, UNFPA pays tribute to the work of midwives around the world and calls for increased investments to train and retain midwives where they are most needed. Together with partners, UNFPA is starting a new programme to promote midwifery around the world.

Every minute another woman dies in childbirth. We can save these women by getting midwives in their communities. By investing in midwives, governments can achieve universal access to reproductive health and the fifth Millennium Development Goal, to improve maternal health.

There is an urgent need for 334 thousand midwives around the world. And midwives need incentives to continue to work, often under difficult conditions, to save women’s lives.

When they are properly trained, empowered and supported, midwives offer the most cost-effective and high-quality path to maternal and newborn health. Midwives provide care for women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. In case of pregnancy complications and emergencies, midwives perform key life-saving functions. They offer reproductive health information and services, including family planning, which allows women to space their next birth.

In places where these services are widely available, accessible and affordable, maternal and newborn deaths are declining and the well-being of families and communities is improved.

A functioning health system is a system that can deliver to women, when women are ready to deliver. If the health system can respond to the medical requirements for safe delivery, then it can respond to other emergencies. The work of midwives is an essential element of primary health care and helps strengthen health systems.

Today, UNFPA renews its support to achieving quality midwifery care as a way to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and build healthy families, communities and nations.