A Midwife Crisis

Photo by Gates Foundation, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gatesfoundation/5466358415/sizes/m/in/photostream/">via Flickr</a>.

Increased access to and training for midwives in developing countries could save millions of lives every year, according to a new report that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) issued Monday. Improved access to professional midwives could save 3.6 million lives in 58 developing countries by 2015, the report concludes.

Some shocking figures from the report:

Each year, 358,000 women die while pregnant or giving birth, some two million newborns die within the first 24 hours of life and there are 2.6 million stillbirths, all because of inadequate or insufficient health care.

At least 350,000 additional trained midwives are needed around the world. Without more skilled midwives, 38 of the 58 countries surveyed are likely to fall short of the Millennium Development Goal of having 95 percent of births attended by skilled midwives by 2015. UNFPA also estimates that up to 90 percent of maternal deaths could be avoided if midwives were available to refer women with complications to doctors as needed. Among the countries most in need: Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.

More on the UNFPA report here.


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.