United Nations:  Improving midwifery capacities could save 3.6 million lives annually in 58 developing countries, including India, a new report by the UN has said.

The report called The State of the World's Midwifery 2011, said every year approximately 350,000 women die while pregnant or giving birth, up to 2 million newborns die within the first 24 hours of life, and there are 2.6 million stillbirths.

The report said that the majority of pregnancy related deaths occur in low-income countries and most of them could have been prevented.

"They happen because women — usually the poor and marginalised — have no access to functioning health facilities or to qualified health professionals," it said.

The report said that every day, approximately 35,000 will experience birth complications and 900 are likely to die.

The report said that in most countries there are not enough fully-qualified midwives and others with midwifery competencies to manage the estimated number of pregnancies, the subsequent number of births, and the 15 per cent of births that generally result in obstetric complications.

The UN report said that midwifery remains a major challenge in India especially in rural areas.

The report confirms that the world lacks some 350,000 skilled midwives -- 112,000 in the neediest 38 countries surveyed -- to fully meet the needs of women around the world.

In India's case the report highlighted the lack of a full set of "essential midwifery competencies and the authority to perform life-saving interventions".

"Ensuring the availability of human resources for skilled attendance at birth and management of obstetric complications —- especially in remote facilities -— is one of the country's major challenges," the report said.

It said that resources from the National Rural Health Mission are being used to upgrade infrastructure and ensure adequate supplies, but participation from local governments are needed.

"India also lacks a comprehensive policy on Human Resources for Health, which would highlight the need for the delegation of authority and task shifting at different levels
of care," the report said.

(Agencies)