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International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. 1985 Sep; 23(4):247-8.The WHO is certain that the health of mothers and babies can be improved by giving traditional birth attendants (TBAs) special training and support to enable them to carry out their activities with greater safety. This is probably one of the most cost effective approaches to reducing maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. Some workers, however, stress that this approach is inappropriate to the real needs of the impoverished majority. They believe that the real causes of mortality are socioeconomic deprivation, top managerial incompetence and mass illiteracy. In addition to TBA training the WHO suggests strengthening the referral and support system and improvement and wide spread use of appropriate technologies. TBAs have been most successful when trained for a special skill, such as reducing neonatal tetanus. This supplement shows some of the achievements and problems that still exist. The material is presented to gain better understanding of obstetricians and support for simplified maternity care for mothers and babies in rural areas. Obstetricians can influence decision makers who allocate funds for health care to achieve a more equal distribution of resources. The articles are presented as part of a broader program of collaboration between the WHO and the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology (FIGO) in their common objective of improving the health of women and children based on the principles and programs for primary health care. The 2 organizations have joined to form a WHO/FIGO Task Force for the Promotion of Maternal and Child Health (MCH), including Family Planning (FP), and Primary Health Care. The activities of the Task Force are: to put into effect the specific recommendations of the Joint WHO/FIGO workshop; to promote and support the MCH/FP elements of PHC at the national levels; and to promote the transfer, adaptation and further development of appropriate technologies for pregnancy, perinatal and family planning care.