International Day of the Midwife

Afghanistan: the worst place on earth to be a mother

This International Day of the Midwife, Merlin, the international healthcare charity, is championing midwives working in some of the world’s toughest places. They're focusing especially on Afghanistan – officially the worst place in the world to give birth.

merlin-mum• In Afghanistan a woman dies every 27 minutes from pregnancy-related complications
• Only 14% of deliveries are attended by a skilled birth attendant, compared with 99% in the UK
• Afghanistan has only got 0.5 midwives per 10,000 people
• 1 in 8 Afghan women face the risk of dying from complications in pregnancy or childbirth.

One surefire way of stemming the needless loss of life in countries like Afghanistan is by ensuring all women have access to a trained midwife. Simply put, more trained midwives = more mothers saved.

Merlin is calling on world leaders to commit to long term investment in heath workers in crisis countries, demanding that health workers on the ground get the support they need and thousands more are trained.

Join their call, by raising your hand for a midwife today.

Send a Mother's Day card to the Secretary of StateOxfamMothersDay

Oxfam wants Mumsnetters to ask the government to do more to help pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in the developing world, and to make sure that children under five get the healthcare they need.

Last year, with funding from the UK government, healthcare for these vulnerable groups was made free in Sierra Leone. The results were astonishing: the number of mothers giving birth in hospitals doubled, and the number of under-5s attending health centres increased by 179%, and rising.

With more financial help from the UK, the number of safe births could be increased all over the developing world.  Babies and young children could get the medical help they need, regardless of whether their parents can afford to pay for it.

If you'd like to help, send a Mother's Day Card to Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development, asking for free healthcare for mothers and children in struggling countries.  Download the Mother's Day action guide for more info.

Mumsnet, Maternal Health, and the Millenium Development Goals

Unsurprisingly, posters on Mumsnet feel strongly about the health of mothers and babies in the developing world. The statistics are shocking:

  • Every year, 2 million children die on the day that they are born
  • For every 100,000 live births, 450 women die in childbirth (the equivalent figure in the UK is 14)
  • About one woman a minute dies from pregnancy or birth-related causes
  • Millions of children are left motherless, which has enormous consequences for their life chances
  • Many more women suffer long-term health problems because of the lack of obstetric care

Following co-founder Carrie Longton's trip to Malawi with Oxfam in February 2010 (more details here and here), Mumsnet has joined a coalition with the White Ribbon Alliance, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Save the Children and several other organisations in a campaign to push the issue of maternal mortality up the agenda.

Maternal Mortality Coalition: keeping the pressure on

On 26 May, the Maternal Mortality Coalition sent the following letter to David Cameron; tweaked versions were also sent to Nick Clegg, Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, and acting Labour leader Harriet Harman. Mumsnet is a co-signatory.

Dear Prime Minister,

Many congratulations on your appointment. We look forward to working with you.

In these momentous days - the first 100 days of Her Majesty’s Government - the need for strong and decisive leadership is vital. This year’s G8 summit in June gives you the chance to play a strong leadership role for the UK on international development. The G8 has promised to use the summit to launch a major initiative on maternal and child health to reduce the number of women and children that die needlessly every single day.

We were honoured to meet you in March to share our ‘Manifesto for Motherhood’ which sets out the need for action to save lives in the developing world. As the biggest killer of young women in the developing world, there is much work to be done to make pregnancy and childbirth safer. Similarly, there is much to be done to ensure children can survive and thrive.

But there is good news. New statistics show that maternal and child death rates are declining. However, urgent progress is needed if we are to meet MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015. We know that the health of mothers, newborns and children are inseparable and we know how to reduce the number of deaths. For example, we need to fill the global gap of 3.5 million health workers, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, support developing countries in making health care free at the point of use and expand coverage of proven, low-cost interventions such as immunisation and exclusive breastfeeding.

In our March meeting we were delighted by your pledge to prioritise spending on maternal health in the developing world. You affirmed, 'all the evidence shows that if we look after mums we look after families, if we look after families we look after societies, and we can all become a more prosperous, safer and more compassionate world'.

Investing in maternal and child health works. We urge you to put forward new resources in order to double G8 aid for maternal, newborn and child health and fund the vital interventions needed.

In the recently published ‘The Coalition: our programme for government’ you state, 'We will push hard in 2010 to make greater progress in tackling maternal and infant mortality'.

Now is the chance to use your leadership at the G8 to make this a reality.

Minute for Mothers, Friday 12 March, 2010

Mums' cafeOn Friday, 12 March, Mumsnet members joined with the coalition to hold a minute's silence for mothers all over the world who had died in childbirth.

We then went on to hold a Mums' Cafe in the belly of the beast  House of Commons. Volunteers channelled Nora Batty, wearing magnificent pinnies and headscarves while serving teas, coffees and (inevitably) biscuits to Westminster's finest. CarrieMumsnet gave a very emotional speech about some of the things she'd witnessed in Malawi, including taking a trip in a bicycle ambulance whose last occupant had died en route to hospital.

Gareth Thomas, a DIFD minister, added his support, and Annie Lennox practically blew the roof off with a burst of righteous anger that took in AIDS, feminism and the media's obsession with celebrity. (See this thread for more details, and look here for Save the Children's film of the morning's events.)

We are hoping to hold more Mums' Cafes in the future, in various locations in the UK; watch the Campaigns topic for further news. If you'd like to set one up yourself, contact us at

Maternity Worldwide Safe Birth Certificates

In Ethiopia, the lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is one in seven; but for just £15, you can sponsor a safe birth for one mother. The certificates are available from Maternity Worldwide, which is a member of the White Ribbon Alliance. Buy a certificate here.

Other useful links

  • Safer Birth in Chad is an organisation that works closely with midwives and doctors in this sub-Saharan country, where maternal and newborn mortality is amongst the highest in the world. It is currently trying to raise £10,000 for solar lighting in the two hospitals we're involved with.
  • mothers2mothers works in sub-Saharan Africa, and employs HIV-positive mothers to mentor pregnant women in an effort to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies. These 'mentor mothers' help women to access and adhere to life-saving interventions. Click here to donate.
  • Children in Need India helps mothers and children in India break free from the cycle of poverty. For £10 a month, its Sponsor a Mother programme offers UK sponsors the chance to link with a mother-to-be from a poor slum or village, and enable her to access the nutritional help and healthcare that are so vital if she is give her baby a decent start in life.



Last updated: about 3 years ago