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MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somalia is claimed to be one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, especially a pregnant woman. In fact Somali women bear on average approximately 6 children, and 1 in every 12 women dies from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

The new Mogadishu Midwifery School in Xamar Jajab District of Mogadishu aims to change these dire statistics.

Last week a significant milestone was passed with 25 newly trained midwives from five regions in South and Central Somalia graduating from the school. The graduation ceremony coincided with the official opening of the school presided over by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Religious Affairs Hon. Ridwan Hirsi Mohamed and several ministers, MPs and senior government officials as well as UN Population Fund for Somalia country representative, Mr. Cheikh Tidiane Cisse and his World Health Organization counterpart Dr. Ghulam Popal.

The school opened its doors to new midwifery students for the first time in August 2012.

Multi-partnership is yielding results

The official inauguration marked the unique and successful partnership between three UN agencies (UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO) and donors, including UKaid (DFID), AusAID, Sweden, USAID, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to support the Federal Government of Somalia in its efforts to rebuild the health system under the framework of the Joint Health and Nutrition Programme (JHNP).

The multi-donor and multi-partner development programme will cost 236 million US$ and will run for a period of five years (2012-2016). It is expected to train approximately 1200 midwives and provide technical support, equipment, medicine and other essential reproductive supplies to health facilities. The programme furthermore aims to improve the Somali health system by strengthened Government leadership of the sector; training and recruiting of a skilled health workforce as well as the provision of affordable quality health and nutrition services to 3.4 million Somalis across the country.

Addressing the gaps in quality and safe maternal health care services

Somalia has been facing enormous challenges in the delivery of quality and safe maternal health care to its population due to the chronic shortage of trained health workers. As midwives play a critical role in the reducing maternal and child mortality, the JHNP, through UNFPA, assisted the Ministry of Health in Somalia to rehabilitate and open midwifery schools to train two cadres of midwives in basic and post-basic skills in accordance with International Confederation of Midwifery standards.

“The official opening of this institution today combined with the graduation of these skilled midwives is a clear indication that the country is on the right path to recovery. I congratulate our graduates and urge them to effectively use their new skills in saving the lives of mothers and their babies. We are very grateful to the United Nations family who have been putting in their generous contributions in all sectors to support our people,” states the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia and Minister of Religious Affairs.

The school will train new midwives and build the capacities of the existing ones in the fields of modern birth attendance, emergency obstetric and neonatal care programs to contribute to the reduction of the current high maternal mortality and morbidity rates in the country which stands at more than 1,044 per 100,000 live births.

“Let us recall the potential risk and complications related to pregnancy and delivery that can threaten the lives of both the mother and her baby. Those threats can be rapidly and correctly managed with appropriate knowledge, skills and medication. Through the training at the new Mogadishu Midwifery School midwives will be equipped with those necessary skills and competencies to carry out deliveries under clean and safe conditions in health facilities. The graduation of the first batch of 25 trained midwives will help improve the maternal care services in the country,” says Cheikh Tidiane Cisse, UNFPA Representative in Somalia.