Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin for the International Day of the Midwife, 5 May 2017
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, celebrates the heroic and life-saving work that midwives do every day, often in very trying circumstances. Thanks to midwives, millions of women each year are able to exercise their right to sexual and reproductive health services, including voluntary family planning. These services help ensure wanted, healthy pregnancies and safe births.
Yet, far too many women lack access to these services. As a result, each year more than 300,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth, some 3 million babies do not survive the first month of life, and another two and a half million babies are stillborn. Most of them could have been saved by the care of well-trained midwives within the framework of strong health systems.
UNFPA strongly supports the training and work of midwives in more than 100 countries. Since 2009, UNFPA has worked with partners to support over 600 midwifery schools, educating more than 80,000 midwives. We have also strengthened national midwifery associations in 75 countries and helped enhance the regulatory framework for midwifery practice to ensure accountability.
This year’s theme of the International Day of the Midwife, “Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!”, underscores the critical role midwives play. Midwives save lives, support and promote healthy families, and empower women and couples to choose whether, when and how often to have children. They also help avert sexually transmitted infections and prevent disabilities like obstetric fistula, mother-to-child transmission of HIV and female genital mutilation.
Preventing maternal and newborn deaths and disabilities and empowering women to make informed, healthy choices and exercise their rights is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. To make this happen, we need to expand midwifery programmes, maintaining the highest global standards, and promote an enabling environment for midwives to effectively serve the needs of women and their families.
On this day, I urge all governments and development partners to join UNFPA in supporting midwives so more women survive and they, their families and communities thrive.