A workshop session entitled 'Midwives working wherever women live: a key to helping save the lives of mothers and newborns' was held at the ICM 28th Triennial Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, on 3 June. It was presented by Nester Moyo and Elizabeth Duff on behalf of the team who wrote the paper, which included Nester, Vincent Fauveau of UNFPA and midwifery consultants Della Sherratt and Karen Odberg Pettersson. This session provided details for the midwives attending the Congress, which expanded upon the announcement made to ICM Council delegates the previous week.
To increase and improve skilled attendance at birth
ICM's new joint programme with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is called 'Investing in midwives and others with midwifery skills to accelerate progress towards MDG5'. The work will be jointly executed by ICM and UNFPA and funded by UNFPA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It aims at building national capacity by scaling up the capacity of midwives, with a goal 'to increase and improve skilled attendance at birth in low income countries through the creation of a critical mass of advisers who will work both nationally and regionally to promote and enhance the role of midwives and others with midwifery skills'.
The programme will contribute to the achievement of two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): improving maternal health (MDG 5) and reducing neonatal mortality (MDG 4). It is also in line with the recommendations from the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in 1994 and the international community of donors' call for investing in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The role of maternal health in country development
Nester explained the background to the project. World leaders, recognising the crucial role of maternal health in broader health and development, have committed themselves to improving maternal health through achieving MDG5, the goal to reduce maternal mortality.
Historical evidence shows that ensuring skilled attendance at all births by professional midwives is fundamental to reduction of maternal mortality rates (MMR). Evidence also supports the value of investment in midwifery training to ensure provider competence. Examples from earlier centuries, where such action has been associated with dramatic decreases in the maternal mortality include:
* Sweden in the mid-18th century