Kathmandu, May 3 Although the World Health Organisation has recommended its member countries to provide midwife-led care for women during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period, as well as for newborns, Nepal still does not have even a single professional midwife to ensure the services. According to WHO, midwife-led continuity of care results in 24 per cent reduction of pre-term births and expecting mothers are 16 per cent less likely to lose their babies and report higher satisfaction with their birth experience when midwife is involved. Kiran Bajracharya, former president of Midwifery Society of Nepal, said in a country like Nepal, where maternal mortality rate was 239 in 100,000 live births and mortality rate for children below five years of age was 39 deaths per 1,000 live births, professional midwives were an urgent need. She said, “There is no professional midwife working in the country. Maternal and child health workers with three-month basic training on maternal and child health after Grade VIII and auxiliary nurse-midwives with 18-month training after Grade X are the only midwifery care providers in the community.” Midwives educated and qualified as per the international standards can provide 87 per cent of services needed by mothers and newborns, claims WHO. Formal education of midwifery started in the country in 2016 and will take three years to generate midwifery workers. Bajracharya said National Academy of Health Sciences, Kathmandu University and Karnali Institute of Health Sciences had started the educational programme and students had been studying on their own expense. “The government hasn’t invested much on midwifery production. If it had invested for midwifery, midwifery experts would not have left the country to work overseas,” she said, adding that as the demand of midwifery was high in the international market, health workers with education in midwifery had been attracted to opportunities abroad. “This year 15 midwives will graduate from Kathmandu University and National Academy for Medical Education,” said Laxmi Tamang, president of Midwifery Society of Nepal. According to Nepal Demographic Health Survey, 2016, 48 per cent of women are delivering their babies in the care of non-experts. “With two midwives per pregnant women, nearly 9,000 midwives are necessary throughout the country,” said Tamang. Speaking at a press conference Tamang said that the third National Midwifery Conference would be held on May 4 and 5.