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UNFPA calls for more investment in midwifery

Bo, southern Sierra Leone, 5 May 2022- Sierra Leone joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Midwife. The event which was held at Bo Government Hospital under the theme ‘100 Years of Progress’ was graced by the Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Hon. Princess Dugba.


Speaking at the event, Deputy Representative of UNFPA in Sierra Leone, Sibeso Mululuma underscored the need for increased investments in midwifery education and training, health workforce planning, management and regulation and service delivery,  to enable the country reach its transformative result of reducing preventable maternal mortality.

Ms. Mululuma recognized the vital role of midwives in delivering quality sexual and reproductive health service, serving as essential part of the world’s fight against maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity and as the backbone of the COVID-19 response, delivering a range of services needed for safe motherhood.

Sierra Leone’s 2019 Demographic and Heath Survey report shows that the country has made progress with a 38 percent per cent reduction in maternal deaths – from 1,165 per 100,000 in 2013 to 717 per 100,000 live births in 2019, thanks to the meaningful contribution of midwives. “This notwithstanding, Sierra Leone is at a crossroad in meeting SDG 3 of reducing maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births,” she emphasized.

Currently producing a maximum of 150 midwives yearly, Sierra Leone may not reach the peak number of midwives required to meet global standards for midwifery workforce if more investment into the sector is not made possible to triple the production. “The State of the World Midwifery report 2021 projects severe shortage of midwives in Sierra Leone in 2030 and also recommends close monitoring of the current situation where most midwives are aged between 34-54 years and are nearing retirement,” Mululuma disclosed.

In her key keynote speech at the event, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Hon. Princess Dugba, said, “Fully educated and licensed midwives integrated into interdisciplinary teams can deliver about 90% of essential sexual, reproductive, and maternal, new-born and adolescent health interventions across the life course.”

Government, she said, is working with partners to improve the quality of maternal and new-born care, and to strengthen nursing and midwifery education, continuing professional development, and regulation. “We are also putting policies in place to address sexual harassment and promote occupational safety, towards creating conducive working environment for midwives and other health workers,” she emphasized.

In her remarks, Vice President of the Sierra Leone Midwives Association, Edwina Conteh, called for stakeholders’ intervention in addressing critical challenges facing the midwifery practice in the country. “Our workforce is inadequate to deliver the expected maternal health services. The country needs 3000 midwives by 2030 and we are below 50% of the expected workforce and the majority of those in the workforce is close to retirement,” Conteh reiterated.

She called for better conditions of services especially for those serving the rural communities. “Midwives should have a distinct scope of practice and be able to work across this full scope of practice and should be recognized as primary health providers, based in communities near where women live, focusing on prevention,” she advocated.

Speaking at the same event, the Register of Nurses and Midwife Board, Madam Christiana B. Massally announced that in order to increase the number of midwives trained, the Government of Sierra Leone was embarking on a direct entry program for midwifery training. Effective October 2022, the Midwifery schools in the country will commence the enrollment of students directly into the midwifery program without having undertaken initial nursing training.

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John Baimba Sesay

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