Midwives from across the UK have been urged to use their skills abroad in a bid to curb the number of women who die from preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Volunteer organisation VSO said that 800 mothers die every day as a result of such complications, with the majority of the deaths taking place in developing countries.
A spokesman said many lives could be saved if health workers were given better training and if UK volunteers could help to address severe workforce shortages.
Midwife Angela Oxley, who spent two years working in rural health centres in northern Cambodia, urged her colleagues to think about volunteering.
Women in the country are 20 times more likely to die during child birth than women in the UK.
Speaking on the International Day of the Midwife, the 56-year-old from Kendal, Cumbria, said: “Midwives in the UK could make a real difference volunteering overseas, passing on their vital skills to counterparts who are desperate to learn. It is unacceptable that the everyday act of giving birth is so incredibly dangerous in the world’s poorest countries.
“I met some truly inspirational midwives in remote health centres who are really trying to make a difference to the high maternal and neonatal mortality in Cambodia.
“They were desperate to learn important techniques and when they did, were quick to pass them on to their colleagues.”
International development secretary Justine Greening added: “British volunteer midwives are among the best in the world; we believe encouraging them to share their expertise abroad will help give developing countries the skills needed to improve the health of some of the world’s poorest people.
“Helping girls and women reach their potential and lifting them from a life of poverty is a key priority for the British government and that includes tackling the tragic scale of maternal and child deaths. Cambodia is a country where far too many women die every day in pregnancy or childbirth.”
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