Nigeria needs 70,000 more midwives to tackle maternal, child deaths – UNFPA

THE United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has advised Nigeria to recruit additional 70,000 midwives to help reduce maternal and child mortality in the country.

The agency said shortage of midwives and increasing brain drain had been linked to an ‘outrageous’ maternal mortality ratio of 512 per 100,000 live births in the country. 

It said the shortage had been more acute in Northern Nigeria, “where essential maternal and reproductive health care needs are unmet”.

In a statement to commemorate the 2023 International Day of the Midwife, UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, a doctor, said in addition to hiring more midwives, health authorities should allow them to be more involved in health care services.

The organisation explained that evidence showed that competent midwives could provide 90 per cent of essential sexual and reproductive health care. 

It argued that midwives accounted for only 10 per cent of the health workforce because they were underutilised and in short supply.

“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.”

UNFPA said midwives are important in a world where a woman dies every two minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth.

According to the agency, having skilled midwives is one of the most important ways to avert preventable maternal and newborn deaths. 

It said more mothers and babies survived and thrived in countries that invested in a capable midwifery workforce. 

“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.

“The consequences of not having enough skilled midwives are alarming. Decades of progress in preventing maternal deaths have ground to a halt. Every single year, 287,000 women globally lose their lives giving birth; 2.4 million newborns die, and an additional 2.2 million are stillborn.”

By closing the number of midwives deficit, UNFPA said nations would prevent two-thirds of maternal and newborn deaths and save over 4.3 million lives annually by 2035.

The agency said it had helped countries educate and train 350,000 midwives in line with international standards to help improve the quality of care they provide. 



    A check by The ICIR showed that the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) licensed over 250,000 midwives and nurses in Nigeria.

    The ICIR also reports that many nurses in Nigeria trained as midwives and vice versa.  

    In 2022, The ICIR investigated and published a series of reports from 12 states on the state of primary health centres (PHCs) where midwives and nurses mostly work. 

    The reports tally with UNFPA’s concerns in the story. Some of the reports are herehere and here.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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