Midwifery in the DRC: Education that saves lives

Our partner in the DRC, ISSI, working to improve maternal and newborn health by empowering midwives

In the DRC’s significantly understaffed healthcare system, WONDER is supporting women to gain the education they need to save lives and transform their communities.

In the DRC, midwifery skills are critical. Women do not survive childbirth in the DRC at a rate drastically higher than the global average, and far above the United Nations’ goal for maternal mortality.

The need for midwives in the DRC

The first priority for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3), which prioritises good health and well-being, is reducing maternal mortality. More specifically, the UN’s goal is to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births. The DRC is falling far short of that goal. Currently in the DRC, the maternal mortality rate is 846 per 100,000 live births, and the neonatal mortality rate is 28 per 1,000 live births.

This high mortality rate can be partially explained by an overextended healthcare system, strained by years of civil conflict. There is only one midwife for every 20,000 people in the DRC. Further compounding the issue, the contraceptive prevalence rate is only 8 percent. Without expanded midwife training and healthcare services, the DRC will fall far short of meeting SDG3. Women in the DRC will continue to struggle to deliver children in safety and comfort. 

How WONDER is supporting midwifery 

Because of the hardships endured by these mothers and the educational opportunity for midwives, WONDER decided to take action. 

In March 2021, WONDER Foundation received a grant to implement a brand new 2-year project providing midwifery training in partnership with the Institut Supérieur en Sciences Infirmières (ISSI), the premier nursing institute in the DRC. 

The project has two aims: 

  1. To train females nurses as midwives to improve their own career progression, while strengthening the DRC’s healthcare system 
  2. To improve the quality of maternal and new-born care for mothers and infants, reducing maternal and infant mortality in the DRC

 

The project’s long-term goal is to establish high-quality, accredited midwifery training at ISSI. This training program will facilitate the education and training of hundreds of midwives to help close the gap in women’s healthcare in the DRC.

ISSI is working with the Ministry of Education to accredit this new program, and to share learning and best practice with other institutions across the country in an effort to raise midwifery standards nationally.

Reflecting on one year of training midwives 

After the first year of action, the midwifery program has achieved the following:

  • Fourteen trainees have completed their first-year exams and qualified for the second year.
  • Fourteen trainees completed placements consolidating their learning.
  • One hundred people, including trainees, trainers and clinical practitioners, have increased understanding of the importance of midwifery and the role of the professional midwife.
  • Trainees have a deeper understanding of patient consent and person-centred care, and are already sharing their knowledge with colleagues in their current workplaces.
  • Key stakeholders working across DRC and locally have been engaged and informed about the new programme, including the WHO, UNFPA, ITSM Kinshasa (the lead state-funded medical training facility) and SCOSAF – the Congolese Society of Midwives.

 

The pilot year of midwife training has made a huge impact on addressing some of the shortcomings of the women’s healthcare system in the DRC, but there is still a significant amount of work to be done. ISSI has identified many students for the next cohort starting in October who will need scholarships. If you are interested in supporting WONDER’s work on midwifery in the DRC, please consider donating to our organisation.

Author: Sarah Finkel

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