UNSAFE abortions and HIV infections remain the main contributors of maternal deaths in South Africa, a world summit on mother and child deaths heard recently.
Deliwe Nyathikazi, a board member of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), said the summit in Washington at the weekend was aimed at finding ways to reduce maternal mortality globally.
Nyathikazi said cardiac disease also contributed to the problem.
She said the ICM called for the development and strengthening of professional midwifery organisations, legislation enabling midwives to practice their competencies and collaboration between the south and north countries to expand quality midwife training.
They also called on governments to provide funds to help save mothers and babies.
"There is international consensus on what needs to be done to substantially reduce maternal and newborn mortality and injury. What is not so clear is how to achieve targets set for 2015 without more midwives and others with midwifery skills," Nyathikazi said.
"We now need bold and unprecedented action."
She said more than two million women, newborn babies and children die each year because of poor access to family planning, quality care in pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period.
"We know that 90percent of maternal deaths can be prevented when midwives and those with midwifery skills are allowed to practice their competencies and play a full role during each of these stages," she said.
Nyathikazi said there was evidence that maternal mortality had been halved over 10 years in more than 100 countries where a programme of intervention was in place.
"This included access to family planning, attendance at deliveries by competent and motivated health workers with midwifery skills and the availability of facilities for basic emergency obstetric and newborn care," Nyathikazi sad.