By Asmau Ahmad
To close the midwives shortage gap in Nigeria by 2030, about 70,000 more midwives are needed, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has said.
UNFPA made disclosed this in a press statement released by its Executive Director, Dr Natalia Kanem issued in commemoration of the 2023 International Day of the Midwife (IDM) with the theme ‘Together again: from evidence to reality.’
IDM is May 5 and it is a day dedicated to celebrating midwives for their unwavering commitment to saving lives and ensuring the health and wellbeing of women and newborn babies.
Dr Kanem said, “The 2021 State of the World’s Midwifery report puts the midwives shortage in Nigeria at about 30,000 which is 6 per 10,000 people. To close the gap by 2030, about 70,000 more midwives posts are needed but with current estimates, only 40,000 more will be created by 2030.
This shortage is particularly acute in Northern Nigeria where essential needs for maternal and reproductive health care are unmet.”
She said the consequences of not having enough skilled midwives are alarming.
She said in a world that sees a woman die every two minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth, access to skilled midwives is one of the most important ways to avert preventable maternal and newborn deaths.
“If every pregnant woman had access to a well-trained, caring midwife, we would be much closer to a world where every childbirth is safe. Instead, many health systems continue to marginalise this mostly female workforce and treat midwives poorly in terms of pay, working conditions, and opportunities to cultivate skills.
“This, along with a global shortage of 900,000 midwives, reflects an assumption that they are not essential healthcare workers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Around the globe, in countries that invest in a capable midwifery workforce, more mothers and babies survive and thrive. Midwives provide essential information on sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, and help people navigate often-sensitive issues in a variety of contexts, including in humanitarian settings.
Midwives are often the only healthcare workers serving people in hard-to-reach places,” she said.
According to her, 287,000 women globally lose their lives giving birth; 2.4 million newborns die and an additional 2.2 million are stillborn every year.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. Universal access to midwives offers the best and most cost-efficient solution to end preventable maternal deaths. By closing the deficit in the number of midwives, we could prevent two thirds of maternal and newborn deaths, saving over 4.3 million lives a year by 2035.
“In some 125 countries including Nigeria, UNFPA strongly advocates for quality midwifery care. Evidence shows that competent midwives can provide 90 per cent of essential sexual and reproductive health care, yet because they are both underutilized and in short supply, they account for only 10 per cent of those currently providing these services.
“Midwife-led care models improve health outcomes, increase patient satisfaction and reduce costs. While midwives are often relegated to the periphery of health care, all evidence suggests they should be at the centre.”
With stagnating maternal mortality rates and the deadline of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals fast approaching, promoting and investing in midwifery is more important than ever.
“UNFPA has led a global drive to do so, including through the ground breaking State of the World’s Midwifery reports. From 2009 to 2022, UNFPA helped countries educate and train 350,000 midwives in line with international standards to help improve the quality of care they provide.
“More countries today are moving towards universal health coverage, in line with the SDGs. This creates an opportunity to take a step that is long overdue: to formally recognise and treat midwives as essential, respected healthcare providers,” she said.
Kanem added that the shortage of midwives and the ongoing brain drain in Nigeria has been linked to the outrageous maternal mortality ratio of 512 per 100,000 live births.