Findings from the United Nations’ recently released report The State of World’s Midwifery 2011: Delivering Health, Saving Lives are as sobering as might be expected: to fully meet the needs of women around the world, we need 350,000 more skilled midwives (112,000 in the neediest 38 countries surveyed). The report’s analysis of the maternal health situation in Niger, home to the Worldwide Fistula Fund’s new fistula hospital, is equally upsetting:
- Average life expectancy is 51 years and 63% of the population live below the poverty line.
- The country has a high fertility rate (7.8 births and 7.1 children per woman), high child mortality rates (198 per 1,000), high infant malnutrition and an insufficient number of skilled workers.
- Nearly 83% of deliveries occur outside health facilities. While large urban-rural discrepancies exist, 81% of these women receive no postpartum care. Only 18% give birth with a skilled birth attendant present (0.5% with a physician), and 53% receive no antenatal care.
- Access to health care is highly correlated to women’s wealth.
- There is one midwife per 1,000 life births.
There is good news, however. While still incredibly high, maternal mortality rates have lessened rather dramatically in the last 20 years:
Further, a recognized definition of a professional midwife exists, a government body regulates midwifery practice and a licence is required to practice midwifery — all of which helps spread the practice and profession of midwifery and help ensure women receive qualified, professional care.
How to Help
While the report shows that some progress has been made in Niger (and other sub-Saharan African countries), there is still an enormous amount of work to be done to provide all women with maternal health services before, during and after giving birth. In coordination with the opening of our new fistula hospital, the Worldwide Fistula Fund is developing a full-scale fistula prevention campaign to educate women in rural villages about the warning signs of obstructed labor and how to seek help. Among other outreach initiatives, our prevention campaign will also fund bush taxi service to deliver expectant mothers to hospitals as well as pay for the medical treatment the women receive at the hospitals.
Please help prevent the formation of fistula and lessen the rates of infant and maternal death by giving what you can to the Worldwide Fistula Fund. If you’d like to donate specifically to our prevention campaign, please visit our new giving catalog and choose “Fistula Prevention Outreach” from the options given.