The official start of the Bachelor in Midwifery program in Nepal is an important milestone towards improving maternal and newborn health in the country, said the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The Government of Nepal launched the Bachelor in Midwifery program on January 5, honoring its long-term strategy of making midwifery an independent profession by producing professional midwives. “We commend the National Academy of Medical Science and Kathmandu University for starting the Bachelor in Midwifery courses,” said UNFPA Country Representative to Nepal Giulia Vallese.

“Midwives are key to reducing maternal mortality. Recognizing their importance in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality as well as morbidities contributes to making every pregnancy wanted and every birth safe,” said Vallese.

Well-trained midwives together with a recruitment, deployment and retention plan could help avert roughly two-thirds of all maternal and newborn deaths. They could also deliver up to 87 percent of all essential sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health services. Midwives are one of the most cost-effective and culturally sensitive path to achieving universal health care, if practicing in an enabling environment and supported by regulations.

Nepal has made tremendous progress in reducing maternal mortality from 901 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 258 in 2015, according to the Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group comprising WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank. This being said, many women continue to die in childbirth, either at home without access to skilled birth attendance or in health facilities providing sub-standard obstetric care. Furthermore, inequity in access and utilization of health care services has resulted in significant disparities in health conditions across different geographical areas, ethnic groups, educational and wealth status.

Therefore the quality of maternal-newborn health services available at health institutions needs to continue to be strengthened. Such quality issues are further compounded by the lack of professional midwives as a separate cadre of health care professionals in accordance with global standards. 

UNFPA has been working closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners in advancing midwifery education since 2009. We also welcome the active role the Nepal Nursing Council has played in mainstreaming midwifery agenda. “We hope that the government will soon prepare a recruitment, deployment, retention and career plan for the future midwives so that when they graduate they can quickly be deployed for service. UNFPA stands ready to support the government further in strengthening midwifery,” said Vallese.

This story was originally featured on UNFPA Nepal.