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ICM Statement International Day of the Midwife 2010

The World Needs Midwives Now More Than Ever!

Many midwives around the world celebrate the ‘International Day of the Midwife’ o­n May 5th each year. The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) established the idea of the ‘International Day of the Midwife’ following suggestions and discussion among member associations in the late 1980s, then launched the initiative formally in 1992. The aim of the day is to celebrate midwifery and to bring awareness of the importance of midwives’ work to as many people as possible. This is done in many different ways according to what works best in each country.

The International Day of the Midwife is an occasion for every individual midwife to think about the many others in the profession, to make new contacts within and outside midwifery, and to widen the knowledge of what midwives do for the world. In the years leading up to 2015, ICM will use the overarching theme “The World Needs Midwives Today More Than Ever” as part of an ongoing campaign to highlight the need for midwives. This reflects the World Health Organisation (WHO) call for midwives and the need to accelerate progress towards Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5.

Midwife numbers must be expanded to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6 by 2015 350,000 more midwives are needed!1

The UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2008 states: The high risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth continues unabated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia … little progress has been made in saving mothers’ lives. Over 60% of women in these areas of the world still do not have skilled care during childbirth.
This report notes better progress for all of the MDG goals, apart from MDG5!2 Yet all the goals are linked: until poverty and hunger are reduced, until diseases such as HIV and malaria are controlled, until there is more equality between men and women, until every child completes primary education, until all women have access to reproductive healthcare – then mothers and babies will continue to die.

Midwives are key healthcare providers in achieving MDG 5: Improving Maternal Health3
That is the clear message coming from the WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Bank: the four UN agencies that have recently united to pledge increased support to countries with the highest maternal mortality rates.
They identified mortality in pregnancy and childbirth as the “highest health inequity in the world with over 99% of deaths occurring in the developing world”. They committed to work with governments and civil society organizations to address the “urgent need for skilled health workers, particularly midwives”.4

Midwives provide skilled newborn care to achieve MDG 4: Reduce Child Mortality5
Every year in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia more than 1 million infants die within their first 24 hours of life due to lack of adequate health services, including midwifery care. The midwives of the world understand that every childbearing woman deserves to give birth within a safe and supported environment for herself and her baby. Skilled midwifery care includes emergency care for both mothers and their newborns.

Midwives are essential to achieve MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
Thousands of pregnant women and hundreds of thousands of newborns die each year due to preventable disease. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa governments have recognized the primary role of midwives in reducing these devastating deaths. As essential frontline workers, midwives provide vaccines to newborns and children; they identify, counsel and treat pregnant women with HIV and AIDS, thus preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV; they also provide anti-malarial drugs and bed nets to vulnerable pregnant women and their children, saving lives and promoting health.

The achievement of MDGs 4, 5 and 6 requires a global commitment to grow a strong, well educated midwifery workforce within functioning health service delivery systems.

The sense of urgency to achieve MDGs 4, 5 and 6 in the next six years is increasing daily. The ICM and the midwives of the world are committed to working with global partners to achieve these goals. The Confederation has grown to 91 member associations with 250,000 midwives in over 80 countries and has recently partnered with the UNFPA to strengthen midwifery education, regulation and associations in 40 low income countries. The ICM has also joined the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) and Sarah Brown’s Maternal Mortality Campaign to increase public awareness and apply political pressure on the G8 and G20 to make maternal and newborn health a global priority. The ICM recognizes that health delivery systems must be strengthened and the midwifery workforce must be increased to stop the needless deaths of millions of women and their newborns who will die in the next six years if immediate action is not taken now.

The world needs midwives now more than ever!

For more information contact ICM President Bridget Lynch or ICM Secretary General Agneta Bridges at +31 70 3060520 or e-mail
1. The World Health Report: Make every mother and child count. World Health Organization, 2005.
2. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2008. New York, USA: UN, 2008
3. MDG 5 Target: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio. UN, 2000.
4. Accelerating efforts to save the lives of women and newborns. WHO/UNFPA/UNICEF/World Bank. Joint statement: Sept. 2008.
5. MDG 4 Target: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate. UN.

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) is responsible for the organisation of the International Day of the Midwife, which is held annually on 5 May.  Each year has a different theme, decided in advance by the ICM Triennial Congress.  Midwives from all the organisations affiliated to the ICM express worldwide solidarity and take action to highlight the knowledge and skills of midwives, and the contribution midwives make to the health of their nations. In the UK the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) organises events both to support Safe Motherhood and to promote the midwifery profession both in the UK and worldwide.

The first international day of the midwife was launched in May 1991 with the theme “Towards safe birth for all by the year 2000”, this year’s theme is “The world needs midwives now more than ever” – see previous posting

A reminder that local Independent Midwives will be in-store at the Nursery Department, John Lewis plc, Central Milton Keynes on Saturday 9th May between 10am and 4 pm to celebrate International Week of the Midwife. They will be available to answer any questions on pregnancy, birth and early parenting including breastfeeding.  More details can be found at