Women and children wait in line to collect UNHCR aid supplies at the Kabara transit centre for IDPs in Dollow, southwestern Somalia near the Kenya and Ethiopian border on August 30, 2011 during a UNHCR delegation visit in drought and famine stricken southern Somalia.

The important role of midwives

Infant mortality rate has decreased significantly over the last two decades, but it is still far too high. In 2013 more than 4.6 million infants died before the age of one. In Afghanistan and Chad thirteen per cent of infants born die within the first year.

The gap between maternal and infant mortality between high and low income countries is striking. According to WHO statistics the risk of a woman in a developing world dying from a maternal-related cause during her lifetime is about 23 times higher compared to a woman living in a developed country.

Every day about 800 women around the world die due to complications of pregnancy and child birth. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could probably have been prevented with skilled care.
We all know that midwives, doctors and nurses play a crucial role in saving the lives of mothers and their infants. But in low-income countries on average only 50 % are looked after by a skilled attendant. In many places it is far fewer than that number.

Sweden wants to see “skilled care at every birth”. Ensuring quality maternity care services can save the lives of women and newborns. These services require an accredited health professional team.

It is against this background that the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has started the campaign Midwives4all. This is an initiative that aims to spread knowledge about the benefits of evidence-based midwifery as a complement to all the work that is currently going on across the world.

The purpose of the campaign is to get more people, organizations and stakeholders to actively advocate for and help ensure that more people have access to a midwife when they need one, and to increase knowledge of what a midwife is and can do, thus increasing demand globally for midwife services.

Midwives4all brings together networks and doers from different fields, taking advantage of the opportunities that lie in the information technologies that connect the global village.

Together with various different stakeholders, including the team behind the Lancet’s series on midwifery, we aim at engaging citizens, organisations and stakeholders around this important task.

Sweden has an interesting story to tell when it comes to midwifery. Today midwives in Sweden attend three out of four births on their own with no doctors present, but we also recognize the very important role of obstetricians and their cooperation with midwives. As few as 0 – 6 women die yearly in Sweden due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. No woman has died as a result of unsafe abortions in Sweden in the last 30 years.

The Swedish government continues to invest in midwifery both nationally and internationally through our international development cooperation. Investing in midwifery is not only economically sound and saves lives. It also transforms societies to value women’s health, human rights and gender equality. This is also critical if we are to eradicate poverty across the world.

Yesterday a great group of people with expertise in midwifery gathered at the residence to discuss the important role of midwives. It was very inspiring to listen to Frances Day-Stirk, chairman of the International Confederation of Midwives on why midwives matter. Her speech was followed by a panel moderated by Professor Joy Lawn, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The panelists included Professor Mary Renfrew, Dr Anders Molin, Sida’s Lead Policy Expert on Health and Leila Hobollah, President and co-founder, MakeSense.

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