The International Day of the Midwife is celebrated annually on May 5, providing the opportunity to honour the work of midwives, and promote awareness of the crucial care that midwives provide to mothers and their newborns.
This year marks the establishment, 100 years ago, of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM). There are currently 143 Midwives’ Associations representing 124 countries worldwide, including the Confederation of African Midwives Associations (CONAMA), which was inaugurated in 2013.
According to the 2021 State of the World’s Midwifery report, by the WHO, the ICM and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the global shortage of midwives stands at 900 000, and is particularly acute in Africa. With estimates that 75% of essential needs for maternal and reproductive health care are met by midwives, it is concerning that the comparative figure for the WHO African Region is only 41%.
Midwives are central to the prevention of maternal and newborn deaths, and stillbirths. With adequate investment in midwifery, the report says that 4.3 million lives could be saved annually by 2035.
During the pandemic, midwifery has been impacted by restrictive practices introduced in maternal and newborn care to mitigate the risk of cross-infection. WHO, in collaboration with UNICEF and UNFPA, developed technical guidance for countries to enable continuity of essential Sexual, Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health services, while protecting and supporting midwives.