Gaining momentum in launching midwifery education

5 May 2014

Nepal's top government officials have expressed commitment to start midwifery education very soon. This is a milestone, considering that the country does not have midwifery as an independent profession or produced a separate cadre of midwives. 
It is high time for the country to launch midwifery education and start producing midwives to further improve quality health services, said Dr. Praveen Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Population addressing a function organized in his office on May 5, 2014, to celebrate International Day of the Midwife. "We should start midwifery courses from next year onwards," he said. 
A draft Bachelor level curriculum and learning guides for midwifery education has already been prepared with support from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in line with global ICM/WHO standards for universities to adopt, pending approval of the Nepal Nursing Council (NNC), an autonomous body established by law to ensure quality of nursing education. A feasibility study on professional midwives in Nepal, carried out in 2012, has identified and recommended several national universities that can start midwifery education. 
Currently, NNC is working on preparing minimum requirements for midwifery education and registration of midwives by amending the existing Nursing Act, subject to Parliament approval. Minister for Health and Population Khagaraj Adhikari, at the same function, pledged his support to amend Acts and Regulations related to the country's health sector as necessary. 
The Government of Nepal, in the National Skilled Birth Attendants Policy (2006), has recognized the need to produce professional midwives to improve maternal and newborn health and survival. "Once we start producing professional midwives, this new cadre would complement the existing skilled birth attendants", said Dr. Mishra. 
UNFPA is closely working with the government in advancing midwifery education and cadres. "We count on the Government of Nepal to have midwifery education and regulation in place and for making provision for midwives in their human resource strategy given the fact that they have a crucial role to play in saving lives and in strengthening national health systems," said Giulia Vallese, Representative, UNFPA Nepal. 
The Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON) is advocating and promoting the role of midwifery in Nepal. The country needs midwifery education and regulation as investing in human resources for health is one of the soundest strategies any country can make. Since Nepal has made good progress in reducing maternal mortality, continued efforts are required and midwives are key to continued progress.

Midwives deliver more than babies

Joint Statement of Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund and Frances Day-Stirk, President, International Confederation of Midwives for the International Day of the Midwife 2014

Globally, in the past two decades, maternal death has declined by nearly half. In the same period, skilled birth attendance has increased by 15 per cent, with two out of three deliveries worldwide now attended by a skilled health professional. With just over 600 days left until the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline, concerted efforts are required to scale up cost-effective interventions in educating midwives and other professionals with midwifery skills. Such investments are critical to accelerating efforts to improve maternal health and achieve MDG5, one of the goals lagging farthest behind.

Access to quality health care is a basic human right. Yet, nearly 40 million women give birth without skilled care, increasing the risk of death and disability for both the mother and newborn. 
The world needs midwives now more than ever. Investments in midwives can help avert a significant number of the nearly 290,000 maternal deaths and three million newborn deaths that occur every year due to the lack of well-educated and regulated health workers and adequate facilities. And midwives deliver more than babies: they also provide other life-saving reproductive health information and services, including antenatal, postnatal care and family planning.

New evidence on the returns that investments in midwifery bring will be released in June 2014, when the second State of the World's Midwifery report is launched at the International Confederation of Midwives' Triennial Congress in Prague, the Czech Republic. The report - a joint effort of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund; the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM); the World Health Organization (WHO) and several global partners - will disclose the latest data from 73 countries that account for more than 95 per cent of global maternal, newborn and child deaths. The new data will improve the evidence base in this area, help mobilize leadership and action in high-burden countries to strengthen maternal and newborn health services, and facilitate the provision of quality midwifery services to pregnant women and their babies.

On this International Day of the Midwife, UNFPA and the ICM applaud all committed midwives who work beyond the call of duty, most often in difficult circumstances and with limited resources, to provide maternal and newborn care to women and girls around the world.

We jointly reaffirm our pledge to support midwives globally as we work towards the goal of ensuring that every pregnancy is safe and that universal access to sexual and reproductive health services is a reality for all.