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EL ALTO, Bolivia – The poor Andean country of Bolivia struggled unsuccessfully for decades to improve maternal deliveries, then it turned to training midwives.
Aymara and Quechua indigenous groups make up a majority of Bolivia's population, and many indigenous women distrust hospitals. They prefer to rely on traditional midwives, who they often refer to as "aunt."
Led by Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, the government has tapped into this strong cultural bond to train about 500 midwives and improve their medical skills.
And it is incorporating the midwives into the health system as it strives to lower Bolivia's maternal mortality, which is the highest in South America and among the highest in the Western Hemisphere.