She described this year’s graduation theme as not only timely but also appropriate, as the country has gone through health emergencies like the Ebola and the series of cholera outbreak in some specific districts.
Mrs. Patricia Bah disclosed that Sierra Leone is among the countries with the highest maternal mortality in the world, adding that as a country they are still recording high cases of complications from pregnancy like Fistula which can be prevented if midwives in all the health facility can respond promptly to obstetric emergencies.
UNFPA Representative, Dr. Kim Eva Dickson said the midwives graduated were the seventh batch of students to graduate from the project that was initiated by UNFPA in 2010 in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
She informed her audience that the project was initiated because of the very low number of midwives in the country which was approximately 95 midwives in 2010, adding that to date UNFPA has supported the government through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to train 647 midwives that are deployed in hospitals and Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) in the country. She said although it is estimated that the country needs about 3, 500 midwives for a population of seven million, yet they are still quite far off and must not rest on their laurels.
Dr. Eva Dickson reminded all that midwives are the backbone of a strong, resilient health system, and the main provider of a basic package of essential health services for the survival and promotion of the health of mothers and newborns.
She said despite encouraging gains that the government has made in the health sector, about 3, 000 women die in Sierra Leone as a result of obstetric condition due to lack of access to quality obstetric care. She thanked the Health Ministry, the school’s administration and tutors for their hard work in training this cadre of health staff, and congratulated the newly trained midwives on their achievement.
The UNFPA Representative re-affirmed their pledge to support midwives and midwifery in Sierra Leone, as they work towards the goal of ensuring that no woman should die giving life.
ICAP/RRHS Project Director, Gertrude Chipungu said ICAP at Columbia University feel honored to partner with the National School of Midwifery in improving the learning environment of student midwives through the Resilient, Responsive Health System (RRHS) initiated project.
She told the gathering that the RRHS project is a five-year project funded by the Human Resource for Health Administration (HRSA), United States Government with a mission to support the government in its drive to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity rates through training high-quality midwives who will work in rural and urban settings in the country.
The Deputy Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Mary Fullah disclosed that there is a robust reform taking place in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Directorate of Nursing and Midwifery Services is no exception.
She told the gathering that they have developed the Nursing and Midwifery Policy and several guidelines which will give direction to provide quality nursing and midwifery services to the nation.
Giving the Schools Report, the Principal, National School of Midwifery, Dr. Joan Shepherd described the day as another milestone for the school as they successfully turn over 47 newly-qualified midwives products of the school contributing to the human resource for midwifery services in Sierra Leone.
She informed her audience that the school as a proud pioneer of midwifery education and a centre of excellence under the directives of the Ministry of Health that bares a key responsibility of training professional midwives and obstetric nurses through affiliation programme.
Dr. Shepherd stated that there programmes range from 18 months professional midwifery certificate course for post-basic State Registered Nurse to obstetric affiliation for General Nursing Students in the SRN and SECHN programmes from various nurse training institutions for a period of three months and five months respectively.
She said the school had a 100 percent pass rate in the State Final Board Examination with some students excelling with credits and distinction at the different exams, adding that the school through support from UNFPA has succeeded in training over 350 professional midwives who are now posted to work in regional hospitals and other levels of care.
The programme was chaired by the Director of Reproductive and Child Health, Dr. Santigie Sesay.
Highlight of the event include skit performance by Student Midwives Set 33, presentation and commissioning of newly qualified midwives, and distribution of certificates, awards and special prizes formed part of the ceremony.