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The number of midwives worldwide would have to more than double to meet Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal and infant deaths by 2015, according to the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and World Health Organization on International Day of the Midwife.

Maternal mortality is the “highest health inequity in the world with more than 99 percent of deaths [in pregnancy and childbirth] occurring in the developing world,” World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said in a joint statement. In 2008 the agencies pledged to work with governments to fill the “urgent need for skilled health workers, particularly midwives”, the statement says.

WHO estimates that for the annual 160 million births worldwide it would take an additional 350,000 midwives to ensure that at least 95 percent of births were attended by trained health workers, thereby helping meet MDGs.

(image of midwives in Gambia, from flickr user mknobil under a Creative Commons license)

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