Breakfast Briefing on “State of the World's Midwifery 2011” - World Health Assembly

17 MAY 2011 | GENEVA

Dr Vincent Fauveau, UNFPA, project coordinator, presented some of the findings of the Report.
Photo credit: UNFPA/Anne Wittenberg
Dr Vincent Fauveau, UNFPA, project coordinator, presented some of the findings of the Report

Some 120 representatives of Ministries of Health and development partners gathered during a side breakfast meeting at the World Health Assembly to discuss the preliminary findings of the first-ever report – The State of the World’s Midwifery – to be published in June 2011 through an initiative led by UNFPA and supported by 27 partners.

Every year thousands of women die in the first month of their life due to pregnancy related causes and 3.6 million children. While midwives have been recognized as crucial to the provision of quality services to women and children along the continuum of care, they remain inadequate in numbers, distribution and with poor competency levels. The first-ever State of the World’s Midwifery report seeks to provide evidence on the availability of midwifery services in 58 countries with the greatest burden of maternal and newborn mortality, and provide recommendations on how to scale-up health personnel with midwifery competencies.

The report is to be launched in June 2011 at the Triennial Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives. This WHA briefing, moderated by the editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, underlined the recognized importance of scaling-up quality midwifery personnel to improve women’s and children’s health. Mrs Edna Ismail, The Director of Somaliland Edna Adan Hospital, commented: “The world needs midwives who are time-effective, cost-effective and capable of saving lives.”

Participants noted shortages in midwifery in their countries and noted that the scarce resources were poorly distributed and of varying quality. Importantly Dr Sabine Ntakarutimana, Burundi’s Minister of Public Health and the Fight against HIV/AIDs, noted: “While progress has been made in promoting access to maternity care, the challenge to improve the quality of care in the nation’s 750 health centres and 45 hospitals remains important.”

Issues of deployment and retention, and the limited capacity of countries to train high numbers of midwives willing and able to work in remote areas were highlighted as barriers to staffing health centres with qualified and well-supported midwives. Professor A.F.M.R. Haque, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh pointed to “institutional capacity building to midwives-in- training as per ICM standards…and quality faculty development” as particular challenges in the attempt to meet the country’s commitment to deploy 3000 midwives by 2015.

The event ended with appeals for countries to help each other and respond to training needs on a regional level and welcomed the development partners’ support of research, education, regulation, deployment and retention.

The event featured interventions by:

  • Dr Carole Presern, Director of the PMNCH;
  • Ms Alanna Armitage, Director of the UNFPA Office in Geneva;
  • Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General of Family Community Health, WHO;
  • Dr Vincent Fauveau, Coordinator of the State of the World’s Midwifery Report;
  • Dr Chris Rukuom, Chief of Nursing of the Kenyan Ministry for Public Health and Sanitation;
  • Dr Mohamed Dramé on behalf of Dr. Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director General of Health Systems and Services, WHO; and
  • Ms. Sissel Hodne Steen, Minister Councillor, Permanent Mission of Norway.

Find at the right the available documents, presentations and speaking notes from the session.