World Vision urges government to act on midwife crisis

On the eve of the centenary of International Women’s Day, Australia’s largest aid agency called on the Federal Government to help the thousands of women living in poor nations who die unnecessarily in child birth or during pregnancy each year. 

“More than two million babies die on the day they are born every year in poor countries,” World Vision Australia’s Maternal and Child Health Advisor Sue England said."And at least 340,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth.

“In Australia, we are lucky to have 99 percent of births attended by skilled health personnel. However, in poor countries like Laos, only 20 percent of births have professional assistance. 

“World Vision today launched its Midwife Crisis campaign that will lobby the Australia Government to allocate more money from the existing aid budget towards health, which would help developing countries train more midwives and skilled health workers. 

“The government currently spends 14 percent of its aid budget on health. We believe it should be increased to 20 percent to help make motherhood safer for women and their babies living in poor communities.” 

The United Nations put maternal and child health on the agenda with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. So far, little progress has been made on two of the most important goals: MDG 4, which aims to reduce child deaths by two-thirds, and MDG 5, which aims to reduce maternal deaths by three-quarters by 2015. 

The International Confederation of Midwives estimates that more than 350,000 new midwives need to be trained to support expectant mums across the world if MDGs 4 and 5 are to be met.

“The number of women and babies dying each year could be dramatically reduced if developing countries had a greater number of midwives, and if these midwives were given the adequate training, support and equipment they need to function effectively,” Ms England said. 

“Some women can go through an entire pregnancy and birth without even seeing a trained health worker. If women in this situation survive a difficult birth they are often left with debilitating injuries. Their children are also often malnourished and do not have the opportunity to be immunised against common but deadly diseases. 

“Barriers that prevent women from receiving appropriate care during pregnancy and childbirth include a lack of access to a midwife, strong cultural beliefs, distance to clinics, a lack of money and staff attitudes and disrespect for poor women. 

“A big part of World Vision’s work includes educating the community about the importance of women and why they need to be cared for, especially during motherhood.  

“World Vision trains community volunteers to visit households, locate pregnant women and their families and discuss the benefits of birthing with midwives. We also give them the tools and resources they need to break down the barriers that prevent them from getting the care and support they deserve.” 

World Vision’s Midwife Crisis campaign will run from today until mid-May when the Federal Budget announcements are made. For more information visit 


Sue England is available for interviews. Please contact World Vision media officer Sacha Myers on 0457 926 018. 

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