Sarah Brown calls on midwives to play their part to end maternal deaths

3 June 2008 Glasgow, Scotland

The Princess Royal and Princess Muna of Jordan meet midwives at Congress

Pregnancy examination, Mauritius
WHO-393023/H. Anenden

Glasgow, 1-5 June 2008 - Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, and Her Royal Highness Princess Muna Al Hussein of Jordan have championed the work of Midwives at the 28th Triennial Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. Of the 3,000 midwives attending, two African midwives were honoured for their work. More details

Princess Muna, Patron for Nursing and Midwifery in the World Health Organization East Mediterranean region, reminded the midwives of the half-million maternal deaths worldwide each year: “Too often” she said, “sorrow and fear replace the joy and celebration that should mark the birth of a child”. She urged action on improved healthcare for women in childbirth but also called for midwives to support education for women and girls, saying that every extra year in education saves two maternal deaths. Finally, Princess Muna acknowledged the current arguments for ‘investment’ in women’s health, but emphasised that safe motherhood is a human right, not just a component of economic development.

The Princess Royal expressed her pleasure at being asked to open the scientific programme. The Princess explained that she is following in the footsteps of her grandmother, the late Queen Mother, who attended the 1934 Congress, and her mother Queen Elizabeth II, who was patron of the ICM Congress in 1954. The Princess referred to her own work as President of Save the Children UK and said that during her travels she had seen the impact on a community where there is no maternal health care. She described the work of the ICM as “promoting competent midwifery care, dependent on the needs of nations and communities”, but also said that midwives rightly took on a wider role in campaigning for better status for women and fighting to combat HIV and the other diseases that threaten safer motherhood.

The Princess Royal concluded by presenting Save the Children awards to midwives Histaphi Kenkeyani of Malawi and Phoebe Lolly Mashao of South Africa. (More details available on page 2 link.)

Dame Karlene Davis, President of the ICM and General Secretary of the RCM, said: It is wonderful that such eminent royal guests are attending this conference and supporting us in this way. They are helping to throw a spotlight on issues such as the continued and shocking level of maternal deaths in many countries, and the chronic shortage of midwives across the world.

“What is happening across the world is a crime against humanity. There are tens upon tens of thousands of women and children dying every year that shouldn’t be. The ways to stop this are simple. Give these women more midwives, give these women better healthcare so that we can give them and their babies a better chance of living.”