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VOA News Examines Countdown To 2015 Report Calling For Additional 700,000 Midwives To Reduce Maternal, Newborn Deaths Worldwide

VOA News examines the Countdown to 2015 report (.pdf), which says that a lack of trained birth attendants is contributing to more than two million stillbirths, maternal and newborn deaths annually (Smith, 6/15).

The report was released ahead of the Women Deliver conference and is compiled by an international group of academics, foundations, NGOs, as well as governments and U.N. agencies that first came together in 2005 to “track progress [toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of] reducing maternal and child deaths in the 68 countries where over 95 percent of these deaths occur,” according to a Countdown to 2015 press release.

Almost half of the women living in 68 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, examined in the report, continue to give birth without a midwife, physician or skilled birth attendant, according to the report. Just 10 countries were found to have “increase[d] the rate of skilled care at childbirth by at least 10 percent since 1990,” and 11 countries made no progress, the release states (6/3).

The report “calls for 700,000 new midwives and health care workers to provide childbirth services for women all over the globe,” VOA News writes (6/15). Zulfiqar Bhutta, a physician at Pakistan’s Aga Khan University and co-chair of Countdown to 2015, said in the press release: “Skilled childbirth care is one crucial element of a continuum of care for women, newborns and children that can drastically reduce the toll of death and illness in the Countdown countries.”

The report also found that 19 countries are “on track” to meeting MDG 4 – the reduction of child deaths by two-thirds. But it also found that most countries “are not progressing fast enough, and many may not meet the 2015 deadline on reducing child deaths,” according to the release. “New data also indicates that progress is being made globally on improving maternal health. However, most of the 68 Countdown countries will not meet MDG 5, the cutting maternal deaths by 75 percent from 1990 to 2015 and achieving universal access to reproductive health.”

The release details additional findings on family planning, care equity, health policies and financing (6/4).