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UNFPA: 300,000 women die yearly during pregnancy, childbirth

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Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director

By Prudence Arobani

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says more than 300,000 women die annually during pregnancy and childbirth.

Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, disclosed this at the occasion of International Day of the Midwife, which honoured midwives as family ‘partners for life’.

He urged governments and development partners to expand midwifery programmes and promote an environment where midwives can effectively serve the needs of women and their families.

“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.

“Each year, more than 300,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth.

“The UN also estimates that some three million babies do not survive the first month of life, and another 2.5 million are stillborn.

“Most of them could have been saved by the care of well-trained midwives within the framework of strong health systems,” Osotimehin said.

This year’s theme for the Day is ‘Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!’

Osotimehin said the Day underscored the important roles that “these women and girls have in preventing maternal and new-born deaths and empowering women to make informed, healthy choices”.

“These are critical aspects of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to alleviate poverty and assist the planet, by the 2030 deadline,” the UNFPA chief said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also reiterated the importance of midwives washing their hands and maintaining hygienic standards.

Fran McConville, Midwifery Adviser of WHO, on the occasion of the Midwifery Day, tasked midwives on hygiene, particularly hand washing.

McConville said that “hand washing and lack of water and sanitation is a fundamental constraint to quality of care.

“As midwives we must work in partnership to improve access to water, sanitation and electricity for all women and babies everywhere.

“Worldwide, 30,000 women and 400,000 babies die every year from infections, such as puerperal sepsis, often caused by lack of water, sanitation and poor hand-washing practices,” the WHO official said.

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