By Angelique Reid, Communications Specialist, UNFPA Sierra Leone
BO, Sierra Leone, 2 November 2017 – A new midwifery school which recently opened in Bo District, will not only provide career opportunities for budding midwives, but will also contribute to reducing the number of maternal and newborn deaths in the country. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with partners officially opened the new midwifery school in late October.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Mr. David Banya declared the school opened on behalf of the Hon. Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abubakar Fofanah. He said, “Midwives are pivotal for improving the health care delivery to particularly pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five as well as delivering quality, prompt and safe services to save mothers and their newborn children.”
Midwifery is an indispensable service for mothers and babies and remains a global priority in the reduction of maternal and infant mortality. When there is a shortage of midwives in a country, the risks of maternal and infant mortality, morbidity and disability significantly increase. With only 311 practicing midwives, Sierra Leone suffers a critical shortage of midwives. According to the 2013 Demographic Health Survey, 3000 midwives are needed to ensure adequate care during pregnancy and birth. In order to produce the required numbers of midwives, there needs to be concerted effort to ensure students receive quality training and that the midwifery schools have the appropriate resources and capacity to train the students.
Commending the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on the opening of the new midwifery school when asked, UNFPA Sierra Leone Representative, Dr. Kim Dickson said, “Midwives are vital to the survival of mothers and children and they are the frontline workers to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. She added, “UNFPA firmly believes that investing in midwives and midwifery training will contribute to achieving a reduction in maternal mortality in the country.”
More than 3000 women in Sierra Leone die as a direct result of obstetric conditions, where 90 per cent of these deaths could be prevented if a well–educated and regulated midwifery workforce exists in a health system with adequate equipment and supplies. UNFPA has committed to support the education and training of midwives at the new midwifery school by providing full scholarships, and ensuring resources are available for refurbishing and equipping skills laboratories.
Previously, there were only two midwifery schools operating in Sierra Leone. One school is located in Freetown the capital, and the other school in Makeni. However, the new midwifery school in Bo is intended to not only increase the number of trained and qualified midwives but will also improve the retention of skilled professionals in this underserved area of the country. The school will provide training opportunities for those who consider midwifery as a career but do not have the financial means of studying in other areas of the country. The provision of midwifery training will help to address the shortfall in this category of personnel.
Matron Hossinatu Koroma, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, in her statement described the opening of the new midwifery school in Bo District as another milestone in the era of midwifery in Sierra Leone. She declared that universal access to Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) is considered essential to the reduction of the unacceptably high maternal and infant mortal mortalities in Sierra Leone, stating that it requires that all pregnant women and newborns with complications have rapid access to well-functioning facilities that include a broad range of service delivery types and settings.
It is hoped by establishing a third midwifery school in the country, a substantial contribution towards meeting the ambitious targets set by the President of Sierra Leone to increase the number of skilled service providers to over 1000, will eventually contribute to the reduction of maternal and new-born morbidity and mortality.