Back 21 February 2018

Letter to WHO on Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (MNCAH) position




Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, DG (

Dr Nono Simelela, ADG MCA Department

Elizabeth Iro, Chief Nurse

World Health Organisation




Dear Dr Tedros, Dr Simelela and Elizabeth Iro,

I write on behalf of the Global Midwifery Advocacy Group, a collaboration of partners with a shared agenda to increase access to the highest quality maternal and newborn care provided by midwives who are educated and regulated to international standards.

The Group was established by WHO, WRA and ICM following the launch of the WHO-WRA-ICM “Midwives Voices, Midwives Realities” report 2014 and comprises representatives from White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), USAID, Dundee University midwife researchers, UNFPA, Save the Children, Jhpiego, IntraHealth International, American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), Canadian Association of Midwives (CAM), Maternal Health Task Force, Mexican Association of Midwives (AMP), Frontline Health Workers Coalition, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), CDC, CISC, WaterAid, Laerdal Global Health, and the International Medical Corps, and others.

We note that WHO is advertising on its website a vacancy for the position of Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health. The position description sets out a wide variety of duties related to policy, strategy, standard setting, capacity building, financial and human resource management, internal and external collaboration, resource mobilisation and representation. The position description calls for applicants with appropriate experience and postgraduate qualifications but also requires a medical degree.

We bring this to your attention because we are concerned that this restriction will limit the potential pool of applicants to medical doctors only, which means that the potential richness of multi-disciplinary teamwork is lost. None of the list of duties outlined in the position description requires a medical degree. Certainly, the role calls for a physician with public health expertise but as it stands any midwives or nurses who apply would not meet the required qualification criteria. Midwives are highly specialised in the continuum of care around reproductive health and are skilled to deliver 87 per cent of all essential sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health services (UNFPA State of the World’s Midwifery report, 2017). Midwives have a diverse skill-set and the capacity to work both within medical and community settings, enabling them a holistic understanding of public health needs in all settings.

We ask that you review this position description and consider opening it to qualified non-physician applicants, in accordance with an existing precedent within WHO for previous positions at the same level. We are aware that you support increasing the numbers of midwives and nurses within WHO and this appears to be an opportunity to advance this objective. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you on our shared goal of increasing the salience of midwifery in leadership positions that can drive access to adequate midwifery human resources to meet the needs of women, newborns and adolescents around the globe.

Yours sincerely,




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