Health workers are critical to saving lives: they are the single most important element of any health service. Without them, no vaccine can be administered, no life-saving drugs prescribed, no family planning advice provided and no woman can be given expert care during childbirth.
Health workers are vital for progress on maternal and child survival. Ensuring that a health worker is within reach, and is trained, equipped and supported, is crucial to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. Health workers are also vital for addressing MDG 6, non-communicable diseases, and other important health and development issues.
Care during birth from a midwife or another professional with midwifery skills is key to saving the lives of mothers and newborns. Complications cannot always be predicted and may rapidly become life-threatening, making labour a particularly dangerous time for both mother and baby. Countries where most births are attended by a health professional with the skills to spot and manage complications generally have lower death rates for mothers.
To be fully effective, the midwife or health workers also needs access to a functioning health systems with the correct drugs, supplies and back up services.
Despite the important of care at birth in developing countries only 63% of women deliver with a skilled health professional. In the poorest, least developed countries the situation is even worse with only a third receiving skilled care.
White Ribbon Alliance Point of View
The White Ribbon Alliance has a vision of enough health workers, particularly midwives, that are better supported to ensure skilled maternity care for all women and their newborns.
What We Are Doing
White Ribbon Alliance members are working on national level campaigns to persuade decision makers to take specific action to improve the numbers, distribution, working conditions and competency of health workers with a specific focus on midwives.
- White Ribbon Alliance Uganda has coordinated a district level campaign that led to a triple increase in the numbers of health workers, including midwives deployed and put on the payroll.
- White Ribbon Alliance India has launched a “Birth Preparedness Complication Readiness” campaign, featuring health workers and emphasizing the need for sensitized care, especially in remote, rural areas.
- White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria has worked on a successful campaign with coalition partners to encourage the Government to pass the National Health Bill – the first bill in history guaranteeing the health rights of Nigerian mothers, children and newborns.
White Ribbon Alliance is pushing for progress towards meeting health workforce commitments by celebrating successes, exposing gaps, and advocating for specific measures using the Every Woman Every Child initiative as a global accountability platform.
- In 2011, White Ribbon Alliance co-lead the development of a global health workers campaign supported by over 300 organizations. We held public hearings and rallies, contributed to parliamentary discussions and raised the profile at the global level through public campaigning and social media in the run-up to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). At the UNGA, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recognized health workers as the ‘unsung heroes’ in achieving the MDGs.
White Ribbon Alliance is engaging and supporting health care providers, especially midwives, as advocates to address the 3.5 million health workers shortfall across the continuum of care.
We have put a specific focus on midwives - critical to ensuring that women receive the best possible care during childbirth. White Ribbon Alliance launched the “Stories of Midwives” film and the ‘Midwives Save Lives’ petition (with the ICM and Save the Children) that was signed by over 5,000 midwives from 80 countries and delivered to global leaders ahead of the United Nations General Assembly meeting.
|Atlas of Birth
- A Happy Midwife for Healthier Mothers
Critical shortage in midwives, poor working conditions, uneven distribution between urban and rural areas, and negative perception of the midwifery profession, are some of the challenges that hinder midwives ability to provide quality care in Malawi.
- Government of Uganda Makes a Bold Step to Recruit 6,176 More Health Workers!
The government of Uganda committed to recruit the recommended number health workers as per Ministry of Health staffing norms at Health Centre III and IV based and managed at district level across the country. This will be achieved with a provision of additional shs49.5billion (approx US $19.8billion) to the health sector.