More Midwives could Save over 1 Cillion Children & Improve the State of the World’s Mothers

Toronto, May 4 – One in three mothers – almost 48 million women worldwide – every year give birth without expert help. With no access to midwives or other health professionals women and they children often die alone.

This Mother’s Day, what mothers have to celebrate varies dramatically depending on where they live, according to Save the Children Canada’s Missing Midwives & the State of the World’s Mothers report, which ranks 164 countries based on the quality of life of mothers. This year the report also provides an in depth analysis on one key aspect that determines that ranking – a woman’s access to skilled attendance when giving birth.This year, Afghanistan ranks worst and Norway best on Save the Children’s Index of best to worst countries to be a mother. Some progress is being made even in Afghanistan where the number of midwives — although still pitifully low — has tripled within the past three years, thanks, in part, to midwifery colleges run by aid agencies, including Save the Children. Still, around the world, far too many women, give birth with only a traditional healer whose only tools are a dirty blade to cut the umbilical cord and herbs to combat infection.

Save the Children along with advocacy partners like the Canadian Association of Midwives, have launched campaigns to address the estimated global shortage of 4.3 million health workers including doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers. A minimum of 350,000 midwives are needed to save not only thousands of mothers, but 1.3 million newborn babies, who every year die from easily preventable causes.

“This week when we celebrate our mothers and spend time with family let’s remember that women and newborns around the world are dying because a midwife is “missing” said Patricia Erb, President and Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children. “No mother should face giving birth alone. The care a midwife provides during those frightening moments of a woman’s life is not only reassuring; it can make the difference between life and death for the new infant and the mother.”

While most women in Canada have access to skilled birth attendance, women who live in rural and isolated communities are underserviced. First Nations and Inuit women, in particular, suffer from a lack of access in comparison to women you live in southern Canada.

Canada’s 20th place ranking on the State of the World’s Mothers Index is in part due to a slight increase in maternal mortality rates reported in the 2010 State of the World’s Mothers Report. While part of Canada’s higher maternal mortality rate can be attributed to changes in reporting procedures, a study on stillbirths published by the Lancet and Save the Children found that the stillbirth rate for most Canadian women in 2009 was 3.3 per 1000 births, but it was three times that rate in Inuit communities.

“The federal government must implement regulatory, educational and policy changes to bring birth back to rural and remote areas of the country, particularly to Aboriginal communities” said Anne Wilson, President of the Canadian Association of Midwives. “The National Aboriginal Council of Midwives is working tirelessly to bring maternity care services and midwifery back to their communities and we [CAM], will continue to support their efforts.”

No child is born to die – and yet thousands die needlessly every day. Save the Children’s global campaign, EVERY ONE, is determined to end this injustice and save children’s lives. Join us at www.savethechildren.ca.

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