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A Nursing and Midwifery training center open its doors in Vientiane, Lao PDR within the framework of the International Day of the Midwife (May 5th) and the International Day of Nursing (May 12th).

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in collaboration with Japan's International Cooperation Agency (JICA), United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB) and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg supports the Lao Ministry of Health for the re-institution of the professional midwife training programme in Lao PDR after more than two decades gap. The National Skilled Birth Attendance plan in Lao PDR (2008-2012) supports the Community Midwife (CMW) programme for upgrading existing auxiliary nurse-midwife (ANM). The programme is currently providing scholarships to 140 students distributed in seven health schools around the country. The first promotion of graduates will be celebrated in October 2010.

"Every birth should be a joyous event that the family can celebrate. No family in Laos should have to bear the pain and tragedy of losing a mother giving birth, or going through pregnancy and birth and not having a live healthy baby - when such events can be prevented" says Mariolein Coren,officer in charge of UNFPA-Lao PDR. "Healthy mothers make for healthy babies and healthy families. Healthy babies make healthy children and grow up to be healthy adults that can contribute to a healthy nation".

Each year, hundreds of thousands of women die and three million newborns do not survive the first week of life because they lack access to maternity health services and skilled midwifery care. For every tragic maternal death, another 20 women face serious or long-lasting illness or disabilities such as obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention, usually a Caesarean section. The woman is left with chronic incontinence and, in most cases, a stillborn baby.

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and UNFPA are calling on the governments of the world to urgently address the shortage of 350,000 midwives worldwide. UNFPA's Executive Director, Thoraya Obaid, said: "No woman should die trying to give life. Increased investment is needed to provide midwifery skills and life saving services and to make midwives a priority within health programmes, policies and budgets."

The UNFPA and ICM point out that midwives can prevent up to 90 per cent of maternal deaths where they are authorized to practice their competencies and play a full role during pregnancy, childbirth and after birth. They have a critical role in providing family planning, counseling, and preventing HIV transmission from mother to child.
The ICM established the idea of the 'International Day of the Midwife' following suggestions and discussion among member associations in the late 1980s, then launched the initiative formally in 1992. The aim of the day is to celebrate midwifery and to bring awareness of the importance of midwives' work to as many people as possible.

On the International Day of the Midwife, UNFPA confirm its commitment to work to improve the education, regulation, status and working conditions of midwives in communities.

Contact information:
Diego De La Rosa, tel: (+856 21) 315547, mobile: (+856) 020 7791053,