Africa records 196 000 maternal deaths yearly – WHO


By Blessing Bature, Abuja

World Health Organization has said Africa records about 196 000 maternal deaths each year, along with the deaths of one million babies younger than one month.

The body also disclosed that the global shortage of midwives stands at 900 000, and is particularly acute in Africa.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti disclosed this on Thursday in commemoration of the 2022 International Day of the Midwife, tagged “providing the opportunity to honour the work of midwives, and promote awareness of the crucial care that midwives provide to mothers and their newborns”.

WHO Regional Director said “Unfortunately, if current trends persist, only 300 000 midwifery jobs are likely to be created in low-income countries, with the shortage of midwives set to increase to 1 million by 2030. This has serious implications for the Sustainable Development Goal target of reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live deaths before 2030.

Moeti said this year marks the establishment, 100 years ago, of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).

She noted that midwives are central to the prevention of maternal and newborn deaths, and stillbirths, adding that with adequate investment in midwifery, 4.3 million lives could be saved annually by 2035.

According to her, “The contributions that midwives have to make towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage cannot be overestimated. Midwives have been strengthening Primary Health Care for decades, acting as a critical link between women and the health system, and making pregnancy and childbirth safer and more secure.”

“Fully integrated into the health care system, and with the necessary enabling support, midwives have the capacity to provide a wide range of clinical interventions, contributing to broader health goals. These include advancing Primary Health Care, addressing sexual and reproductive rights, promoting self-care interventions, and empowering women.

“The African Region’s tragic record of maternal and infant deaths demands urgent interventions to expand the coverage of emergency obstetric and newborn services, along with a revision of the scope of practice to allow more task-sharing and task-shifting to mitigate the shortage of midwives.

“We, as WHO in the African Region, are working closely with our Member States to improve the quality of maternal and reproductive care. We are supporting the development and implementation of national strategies to accelerate the reduction of preventable maternal and newborn illness and death, and to improve every mother’s experience of care, by 2030”, she added.