FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 30 January 2021– The National School of Midwifery today held its thirty-fourth graduation ceremony for 102 state certified midwives after they completed 18 months of intensive training in midwifery. The theme for this year’s graduation ceremony was “Midwives with Women: Celebrate, Demonstrate, Mobilise and Unite – Our time is now!”
Keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony, Acting Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Anthony Augustine Sandi, commended midwives for their integral role in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in the country. He said, “Their work remains crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.” He also conveyed the government’s appreciation to development partners such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for supporting the country’s midwifery sector.
Since 2010, UNFPA’s support to the National School of Midwifery in Freetown includes providing funds for uniforms and tuition fees among others, in its efforts to increase the number of competent midwives in the country to address the gap in the midwifery workforce. Effective clinical teaching is vital to developing a competent nursing and midwifery workforce whose practice contributes to building a strong health service for optimal public protection.
In 2020, with funds from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, through the Saving Lives in Sierra Leone Programme, UNFPA supported the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to develop the ‘Preceptorship Policy and Implementation Guidelines’. Preceptorship is an approach and a concept that is globally accepted and commonly practiced to achieve clinical competency. Preceptorship bridges the gap between theory and practice for trainee nurses and midwives, and allows for organised professional interactions between the trainee and an experienced and qualified professional.
From 2013 to 2019, Sierra Leone has made major improvements on maternal health indicators, particularly in the reduction of maternal mortality by almost 40 percent. As highlighted in the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, there were 1,165 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 717 deaths per 100,000 live births in the 2019 Demographic and Health Survey. The country has also witnessed a substantial increase in the percentage of skilled birth attendants from 60 percent in 2013 compared to 87 percent in 2019.
Delivering his remarks at the graduation ceremony, Dr. Stephen Mupeta, UNFPA’s Maternal Health Technical Specialist and Officer In-charge said, “Maternal mortality remains high in the country and we should not be complacent. We have a long way to go to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births as contained in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.” He said, ”I strongly believe that with the efforts and investments being made in the health sector by the Government and development partners, that the country will make significant progress on the health related Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”
Dr. Mupeta added, “UNFPA’s commitment to supporting the midwifery programme in Sierra Leone over the last 10 years, in collaboration with other development partners, has led to the graduation of just over 1,000 additional midwives who have been deployed to various health facilities across the country. With the current number of approximately 150 midwives graduating each year, Sierra Leone may not reach the required 3,000 plus midwives to meet the international standards for a midwifery workforce. We therefore call upon the Government of Sierra Leone to triple the production of midwives in the next few years.”