London: Save the Children UK; 2014

New York: UN; 2015

New York: United Nations Population Fund; 2014

‘Making a difference in the world’

02 June 2017
Volume 25 · Issue 6


As the world's midwifery professionals prepare for the 31st International Confederation of Midwives Congress, this event's theme has never been more relevant to global health targets

This month, more than 4000 midwives from over 100 countries will descend on Toronto for 5 days to attend the 31st International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Triennial Congress. The theme of this year's Congress is particularly apt: ‘Midwives—Making a Difference in the World’. Although there has been a remarkable reduction in the number of women and newborns dying over the last 25 years, there is still an unacceptably high number of mothers and babies who die each year as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. In 2013 alone, it was estimated that, of the 139 million births worldwide, 289 000 women died from childbirth complications and around 3 million newborn babies died in the first month of life. A further 2.6 million babies were stillborn (United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2014).

The UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2015) sets out 17 goals towards which member states have committed to work. Goal 3—‘Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages'—identifies multiple targets related to improved global health by 2030, including reducing maternal mortality and ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5. One strong and consistent message which has emerged from a number of reports in recent years, is that midwives can, and do, make a difference in saving the lives of women and newborns and promoting good health—but there are not enough of them to go round. It has been estimated that 1 in 3 women globally gives birth without the help of anyone trained to do so; 2 million have given birth alone (Save the Children, 2014).

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