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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – Midwives in Training - 2004-05-09

Broadcast: May 10, 2004

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Women trained to help with childbirth celebrated International Day of the Midwife last week. The observance takes place each year on May fifth. It is organized by the International Confederation of Midwives. This group began in Belgium in nineteen-nineteen as the International Midwives Union. Today, it has member organizations in more than fifty countries.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than half a million women each year die during pregnancy or childbirth. Blood loss and infection are two of the major causes. Others include diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. But many more women suffer injuries in childbirth. An estimated fifteen-million women each year are damaged so badly that they never fully recover.

Experts say many deaths could be avoided if more women gave birth with skilled help. An estimated fifty-eight percent of women in developing countries have a trained healthcare worker present during birth.

Africa has the highest death rate for mothers. The British Royal College of Midwives estimates that one woman dies for every sixteen babies that survive birth in Africa. India, Pakistan and Afghanistan also have high rates of maternal deaths.

The Royal College of Midwives has launched Safe Motherhood projects around the world to expand health services for women. It also raises money on the International Day of the Midwife to provide transportation for midwives to reach those who need them. For example, money is raised for cars for Sierra Leone, bicycles for Kenya and Cambodia, and donkeys for midwives in Lebanon.

An American-based group called the Afghan Relief Organization is launching a program in Afghanistan. It says there are few trained women there to assist with childbirth. The organization hopes to teach women to become midwives. They will learn how to deliver babies in homes, even if there is no electricity or modern medicine. The new midwives will also help educate mothers about family planning, nutrition, childcare and other health issues.

The Afghan Relief Organization says it plans to mainly train women who live outside of Kabul. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting says that in some areas of Afghanistan, more than sixty percent of women die giving birth.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.