Supporting a new declaration to strengthen midwifery care
Louise Holly, Save the Children UK
Ahead of the Women Deliver conference, Save the Children joined 250 midwives, policy makers, UN agencies, NGOs and donors for the 2nd Global Midwifery Symposium in Kuala Lumpur.
We discussed the progress that is being made towards strengthening midwifery services around the world and heard inspiring stories about how critical midwives are – not only for safeguarding the health of mothers and newborns around the time of childbirth, but for providing a full range of health services from family planning to nutrition education.
As we showed in our 2011 report Missing Midwives, midwives are critical to saving the lives of mothers and newborn babies. Filling the global shortage of 350,000 midwives must be a global priority if we are to reduce the unacceptable rates of maternal and child mortality in the world’s poorest countries.
The Midwifery Symposium looked at the four different dimensions of midwifery services that all need to be addressed: availability, accessibility, acceptability of services and quality of care.
In addition to increasing the availability of midwives through training and retention strategies, it is also important that they are accessible to those who need them. This means creating incentives for midwives to work in remote and underserved areas and removing barriers – such as direct user fees and indirect costs for transport – that prevent mothers, particularly the poorest, from accessing healthcare.
Midwives also need to be motivated and supported to provide care that is acceptable to the communities they serve. We heard from White Ribbon Alliance about the need for women to be empowered to recognise and demand their right to respectful care. In many countries there is also a need for stronger regulation and continued professional education to ensure that services are provided to the highest quality.
To take the recommendations from the Midwifery Symposium forward, Save the Children joined 28 other partners in signing a midwifery declaration. We committed ourselves to champion the provision of widely available, accessible, acceptable and quality maternity services to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes.
We call upon governments and other partners to take action to help save the avert two-thirds of maternal and newborn deaths by ensuring that every birth is attended by a skilled, competent midwife supported by a strong health system.
Follow Save the Children at Women Deliver this week for more information on the 2013 Women Deliver Conference.