Maternal Health Task Force

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Traditional Birth Assistants in Malawi

Last week, Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika lifted a ban on traditional birth attendants (TBAs) that had been in place since 2007, saying:

We need to train traditional birth attendants in safer delivery methods. We should not completely stop them because their work is very important. We should train them to assist us in addressing the health challenges that we are facing.

Expanding opportunities for non-physicians to act as skilled birth attendants may help to stem the tide of maternal deaths in countries where doctors, midwives and nurses may not exist in the needed numbers. Evidence suggests that having a skilled birth attendant present at birth leads to fewer incidences maternal and child mortality and morbidity. If TBAs are properly trained as Mutharika suggests, they may be able to play a major role in reducing Malawi’s high maternal mortality ratio.

In January 2010, with the support of MHTF and UNFPA, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a Maternal Health Policy Dialogue on “Human Resources for Maternal Health: Midwives, TBAs and Task-Shifting.” To view the webcast and read the event summary, click here. For other events in the Policy Dialogue Series, click here.

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