World Health Organization regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, has urged African countries to support midwives by investing in the industry.

Moeti said boosting the number of midwives will contribute to better health, gender equality and inclusive economic growth.

“Governments and partners need to increase investment in the education, recruitment, deployment, retention and protection of midwives,” she said.

Moeti said the investment is essential if African countries are to be capacitated to increase coverage and quality of maternal services, while still responding effectively to health emergencies.

The regional director for Africa spoke on Friday to mark the International Day of the Midwife, the Star reported.

Midwifery is one of the most important healthcare services, yet it is one of the most underserved in the industry.

According to the 2021 State of the World’s Midwifery report, by the WHO and the United Nations Population Fund, the global shortage of midwives stands at 900,000 and is particularly acute in Africa.

“With adequate investment in midwifery, the report said 4.3 million lives could be saved annually by 2035,” Moeti said.

“This has particular relevance for Africa which records about 196,000 maternal deaths each year, along with one million deaths for babies younger than one month.”

If current trends persist, Moeti said only 300,000 midwifery jobs are likely to be created in low-income countries with a midwife shortage of one million by 2030.

Moeti said with estimates that 75 per cent of essential needs for maternal and reproductive healthcare are met by midwives, it is concerning that the comparative figure for the WHO African region is 41 per cent.

“Let’s give these vital and cost-effective contributors the attention they truly deserve.”

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