Because they are often the most vulnerable in times of crisis, International Medical Corps works tirelessly to save the lives of mothers and children living in the midst of war, disaster and outbreaks of disease. Every year, an estimated 300,000 women and 3 million newborns die from complications during pregnancy, childbirth or other neonatal causes. More than 90% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and most could be prevented with low-tech, low-cost care in the form of a skilled midwife—a profession that is tragically under-represented across the world.
According to The State of the World’s Midwifery 2014, trained midwives could provide 87% of the essential care needed for women and newborns. Midwives can identify complications around pregnancy and childbirth early, provide first-line emergency care and, when needed, refer cases to appropriate higher-level care. Adequately trained midwives can also provide prenatal care, family planning, testing and counseling for sexually transmitted infections, assistance at delivery, postpartum care, newborn care and breastfeeding support.
Investing in midwifery education could yield a 16-fold return on investment in terms of lives saved and costs of caesarean sections avoided, and is considered a “best buy” in primary healthcare.” – The State of the World’s Midwifery 2014
To help fill a massive global gap in maternal healthcare, International Medical Corps runs robust midwife training programs in counties that have the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, including South Sudan, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.
War-torn South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Each mother in South Sudan has a one in seven chance of dying in childbirth during her lifetime. Meanwhile, 25% of South Sudanese babies die from common, often preventable, illnesses before they reach their fifth birthday.
Though we provide comprehensive maternal healthcare in all of our primary health clinics, as well as emergency obstetric care in secondary health facilities, it remains imperative to strengthen South Sudan’s healthcare worker capacity. Decades of conflict and insecurity have decimated South Sudan’s workforce, leaving much of the population without access to basic care. To ensure that mothers and children throughout the country receive the lifesaving services they need, International Medical Corps is training hundreds of midwives and nurses, who then take their skills and knowledge back into underserved communities.
To date, we have graduated 426 midwives and 120 nurses. We currently support training in three midwifery and nursing colleges in South Sudan: Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery; the Kajo-Keji Health Sciences Institute; and the Health Sciences Institute of Wau. Our programs include classroom programs, skills-building in laboratory and clinical settings, and continuous professional development and mentorship.
In South Sudan, International Medical Corps has helped increase the number of midwives by 2,242%.
Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery (JCONAM)
JCONAM opened in 2010, connected to the Juba Teaching Hospital in Jubek State. In July 2013, International Medical Corps took over the financial and technical support of the college. JCONAM facilities include a 200-capacity dormitory, four classrooms, a computer laboratory with access to online learning material and a fully equipped skills laboratory for clinical procedure training.
Kajo-Keji Health Sciences Institute (KKHSI)
KKHSI is one of the National Health Sciences Institutes, under the Ministry of Health (MoH), involved in the training of diploma midwives. KKHSI was constructed by International Medical Corps in 2007, with the first intake of nursing and midwifery students in 2008. In March 2017, the students and staff of the KKHSI relocated to Juba as a result of insecurity.
Wau Health Sciences Institute (WHSI)
WHSI is a government training institute located in Wau State. The school opened in 1952 but stopped functioning in the 1970s due to war. International Medical Corps, in collaboration with the MoH and UNFPA, reopened the school in 2012.
Meet the courageous and determined midwives of South Sudan.
With one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, Afghanistan remains in dire need of midwives. A decade ago in Afghanistan, more than 1,600 out of every 100,000 women were dying of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. But thanks to a dramatic increase in midwife training, Afghanistan’s current maternal mortality rate has dropped considerably, to 327 deaths per 100,000 births.
To help address Afghanistan’s high maternal mortality, International Medical Corps started a midwife training program in 2002, in collaboration with Jhpiego (of John’s Hopkins University) and the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). We targeted rural communities, where adequate maternal healthcare was virtually nonexistent, training more than 2,000 Afghan midwives over a decade—each of whom was able to provide lifesaving care to more than 300 women in her own community.
To ensure sustainability of our training, we partnered with the Afghan Midwifery Nursing Education and Accreditation Board (AMNEAB) and the Afghan Midwives Association (AMA) in Kabul, both of which provided critical technical support for our programs. This support included conducting external assessments of midwifery and nursing schools, updating the midwifery and nursing curriculum, and granting accreditation through our training programs. We also worked with AMNEAB and the MoPH to create deployment plans for graduating students, ensuring that jobs were available for graduates where they were most needed.
Central African Republic
As the Central African Republic (CAR) struggles to emerge from decades of conflict, its government has identified maternal health as a top national priority, due to the ways it will help other sectors of society, including improved economic growth, family nutrition and education.
To address CAR’s extremely high maternal mortality rate, International Medical Corps has established a new school for nursing and midwifery, named L’Ecole de Formation des Assistantes Accoucheuses de Bria. Strategically located in Bria, in east-central CAR, the school will serve the Haute-Kotto, Vakaga, Mbomou and Haut-Mbomou prefectures. It was established in close partnership with the country’s Ministry of Public Health and Population (MoPHP) to help meet the government’s goal of addressing maternal and newborn healthcare by building the capacity of health workers.
The school opened its doors on February 10, 2020, with 35 students enrolled in a two-year auxiliary midwife program. Trainees were recruited from current employees of MoPHP-supported health centers and clinics around Bria. When finished with their training, students will return to their previous places of employment with vastly strengthened knowledge and skills.
International Medical Corps is working with Bangui University of Health Sciences to ensure that the new nursing and midwifery program complies with international standards and remains sustainable at the national level well into the future.