Statement

Opening Remarks of Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UNFPA China Representative at the Meeting to Mark International Day of the Midwife organized by China Maternal and Child Health Association

5 May 2020

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Beijing, 5 May 2020

Distinguished Mr. Chen Ziquan, President of China Maternal and Child Health Association, 
Distinguished Mr. Yu Xiaoqian, Secretary-General of China Maternal and Child Health Association,
Distinguished Mr. Xu Zongyu, Division Chief, Department of Maternal and Child Health, National Health Commission,
Madam Qiao Jie and Madam Huang Hefeng,
Midwives and members of provincial CMCHA and medical institutions,
Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Zao Shang Hao (Good morning)!

On behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), it is my great pleasure to deliver remarks on the occasion of celebration of the International Day of Midwife. I would like to thank the China Maternal and Child Health Association (CMCHA) for organizing this important event. 2020 is the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife designated by the World Health Assembly. This year’s theme of the International Day of the Midwife, "Midwives: celebrate, demonstrate, mobilize, unite", demonstrates the need for midwives and women to partner together to mobilize and unite toward a shared goal of gender equality. 

Globally every day over 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 30 million women do not give birth in a health facility; 45 million women get inadequate antenatal care; and 200 million women face an unmet need for contraception. Well-educated and supported midwives can provide more than 87% of all sexual and reproductive health services including caring for women and babies throughout pregnancy and childbirth, providing contraceptives, and managing sexually transmitted infections. 

As the lead UN agency on midwifery, UNFPA has been a strong supporter of midwifery globally since 2008. UNFPA is now supporting midwifery programmes in over 140 countries, and has helped to train over 150,000 midwives who could assist some 26 million safe births each year. UNFPA works to ensure a world with zero preventable maternal death by the year 2030. Midwifery services is a must for the world to achieve the SDG 3 target of reducing global MMR to below 70/100,000 live births.

Though China has long achieved the target, China still faces challenges to further reduce its MMR among vulnerable populations in less developed areas to better demonstrate maternal health outcomes as envisioned in national and sub-national policies and plans. In China, in close collaboration with the National Health Commission, UNFPA has worked with CMCHA and other partners for over 10 years towards a more favorable policy environment for midwifery development in China. Right now, UNFPA continues to facilitate policy dialogue towards the full establishment of midwifery as an autonomous profession in the primary health care system. 

Midwives are central to the delivery of quality sexual and reproductive healthcare. In this regard, midwives have a critical role to play in helping ensure safe pregnancy and childbirth during public health emergencies, like the current COVID-19 outbreak. 

As the world grapples with the grave challenges posed by COVID-19, women continue to get pregnant, and babies are still being born. Midwives as the primary caregivers are working tirelessly in communities, health centers, and hospital wards under difficult circumstances in China, often risking their own lives and well-being. In the COVID-19 battle field, we admired nurses and midwives in Hubei provincial Maternal and Child Health hospitals who showed great resilience and courage to continue serving women and their newborns during the most difficult times.

Thousands of midwives in China are helping to save the lives of mothers and newborns, and helping women to access family planning and maternal health care during the COVID-19 outbreak. I would like to express our deepest respect and appreciation to the extraordinary and life-saving work that midwives do every day, and during the COVID-19 outbreak. UNFPA applauds and hails the work of all midwives and pledges to stand by them.

Today, we celebrate the International Day of the Midwife by highlighting the outstanding performance of midwives during the COVID-19 pandemic, by recognizing senior midwives who have devoted their entire lives to the midwifery cause, and by commending young midwives who achieved excellent study results during professional midwifery training. 

As we commemorate the International day of the Midwife, we also wish to call upon governments and policy makers to implement conducive workforce policies and create an enabling environment for midwives to practice their profession in recognition of the unique professional role that they play.

UNFPA looks forward to continuing to work with the National Health Commission, China Maternal and Child Health Association and all of you to advocate for many ways that midwives provide quality care to women, their newborns and families. This is key to our mission of delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. 

Thank you and stay safe!