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Message of Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director

The presence of a midwife at birth can mean the difference between life and death.

Having a skilled professional at birth protects the life of the mother and the child by recognizing problems early, when the situation can still be controlled, and by intervening quickly.

Every minute a woman dies in childbirth. And the presence of a midwife can save her.

In 2008, UNFPA launched a new initiative with the International Confederation of Midwives to tackle the severe shortage of midwives in more than 30 developing countries. An additional 350,000 midwives are needed to improve maternal health, reduce child mortality and combat HIV. Addressing this shortage is also critical to achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

Our joint efforts are having results. For example in Laos, a country of more than 5 million people and only 86 midwives, a government plan to address maternal mortality includes strengthened midwifery training, as none currently exist.

Today, on the International Day of the Midwife, I call on governments to contribute to this joint effort by providing funds to the Maternal Health Trust Fund and by supporting midwives in their communities.