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Delivering hands to deliver children: Expanding Nigeria’s midwife workforce to aid expectant mothers

By: Lizi Jones

Nigeria is attacking the problem of its maternal health status with all hands on deck.
As the nation with the largest maternal mortality rate in Africa—due in large part to preventable deaths related to lack of access to health care—it has unleashed a flood of midwives to confront the problem first-hand.

In a joint effort to combat unemployment and rampant maternal death rates, Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Developing Agency (NPHCDA) created the Midwives Service Scheme (MSS) earlier this year, which aimed to deploy vast numbers of midwives to the front lines of the fight against preventable maternal deaths across the nation.

The program functions by collecting the able hands that traditionally linger in the margins of the industry: fresh graduates, retirees, or otherwise unemployed midwives who possess the knowledge the nation’s mothers so desperately require, but lack a workplace. Rather than attacking the problem of maternal mortality by expanding expensive training programs, the MSS focuses on what already exists, collecting the readily available, highly trained midwives waiting in the margins of the workforce.

The recruited midwives are sent, in a fashion similar to volunteer programs in this country, to rural regions of Nigeria where the problems are most dire. They serve for a year in their assigned location, earning employment they might not otherwise have and providing invaluable care to a resource-poor region of the country. This year, a staggering 2,500 midwives were recruited and deployed to 652 primary care facilities around the country through the MSS.

Nigeria has led the charge in recent months in recognizing the necessity of improving its maternal mortality rates. The nation’s dire maternal health atmosphere has garnered a great deal of attention in the last year, as its ability to reach the Millennium Development Goals slipped farther and farther out of reach.

In conjunction with the Saving One Million Lives by 2015 campaign, the efforts of the MSS mark an impressive dedication of the Nigerian government and health care system to slowing the tide of access-related preventable maternal deaths.

Additional links:
Report on Nigeria’s ability to meet the MDGs