Shock figures on no-midwife births
One in three women around the world give birth without a midwife and two million completely alone, with often devastating results, new research suggests.
Some 48 million pregnant women give birth at home without a midwife with only a dirty blade to cut the umbilical cord, a Save the Children report said.
As a result, 1,000 women and 2,000 babies die every day from birth complications which could be easily prevented, the agency said.
The Missing Midwives report shows the discrepancy between the developed and developing world is at its starkest at the moment of birth.
Women in the poorest countries are least likely to have a skilled attendant present when they deliver, are much more likely to lose their newborn, and are most likely to die themselves during childbirth.
Some traditional birth attendants use practices that can be harmful to both mother and baby; for example, sitting on a woman's stomach to force the baby out, using butter to attempt to turn a foetus in the wrong position, or using herbs to treat infections rather than seeking medical care.
In the UK, only 1% of women give birth without trained help; in Ethiopia the figure is as high as 94%. In the UK - where there are 749,000 births a year - there are 26,825 working midwives, while in Rwanda - where 400,000 babies are born a year - there are only 46.
War-torn Afghanistan has one of the highest infant mortality rates, with 52 in every 1,000 births ending in death.
Save the Children, which is launching a celebrity-backed campaign for more midwives, estimates that if the global shortage of 350,000 midwives was met, many mothers and babies be saved every year instead of dying from easily preventable problems. X Factor star Stacey Solomon, journalist Natasha Kaplinsky and film director Gurinder Chadha are some of the mothers behind the campaign.
Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said: "No mother should face giving birth without help. It doesn't have to be complicated: someone who knows how to dry a baby properly and rub its back to help it breathe can make the difference between life and death. No child is born to die."