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No child should be born to die

Dominika Osmolska Psy.D.'s picture

A United Nations report released today underscores the enormous importance of the presence of skilled midwives at the birth of a baby to prevent high infant mortality rates in some parts of the world. The report, the first in thirty five years, echoes findings released by Save the Children in April demonstrates that midwives are critical to saving the lives of mothers and newborn babies. Filling the global shortage of 350,000 midwives must be a global priority if we are to reduce the terrible rates of maternal and child mortality in the world’s poorest countries.

The U.N. report, a collaborative effort amongst 30 agencies, titled “The State of the World’s Midwifery,” found that 358,000 women and 3.6 million newborns die each year due to largely preventable complications in pregnancy, childbirth and early postpartum. Additionally, almost 3 million babies are stillborn.

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According to Justin Forsyth, Save the Children’s Chief Executive, the birth interventions which could prevent these catastrophic statistics do not have to be medically complex. It can be as simple as having someone at the birth to dry the baby or pat its back to help it breathe.

It is estimated that countries need about 6 birthing attendants for every 1,000 births in order to have 95% birthing coverage. This means that some countries, especially those in Africa, will need to triple and even quadruple the number of midwives that they currently have. The stated target goal by the UN is to have that 95% coverage in most countries by 2015, a probably unrealistic bar for some countries.

Infant mortality is an important issue both from an ethical-moral point of view as well as from a security- and quality-of-life perspective for all the world’s citizens. The ethical-moral consideration speaks for itself. It is also important to remember that countries with the highest infant mortality rates are some of the world’s poorest countries. They often pose national security issues for other countries in the world. They are often plagued by internal strife, war, and humanitarian crises. As such, they are also the source of the flow of destitute refugees fleeing elsewhere, often to the West.