“Serve to Save Lives”

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Midwifery students honoured UNFPA Country Representative Dr. Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi shortly after the program

-UNFPA Urges Midwives

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative to Liberia, Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, has called on the 34 graduates of the Denna K. Isaason School of Midwifery (DKISM) in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh county, to “serve to save lives.”

Dr. Ndyanabangi, reaffirming UNFPA’s commitment of continual support to DKISM and other midwifery schools in Liberia at the 14th commencement program, held at the institution’s campus, told graduates to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of women and girls to be healthy and productive to contribute to their own development.

The UNFPA country representative, who strongly believes that midwives are the backbone of maternal health systems delivering babies, said they stand by women when they are most vulnerable.

“Midwives fight daily to defend a woman’s human right to go through pregnancy and childbirth safely, even as they themselves often face discrimination, sexual harassment and unequal pay. These challenges are now being exacerbated by the fear and uncertainty over COVID-19,” Dr. Ndyanabangi told the gathering.

Dr. Ndyanabangi added that traditionally, midwives have played a vital role in responding to pandemics.

“With national health systems in many countries totally overwhelmed, midwives are demonstrating their courage and resilience by continuing to support childbearing women in the toughest circumstances,” he said.

Graduates Posed shortly after the graduation program

He informed the graduates that the mission of UNFPA is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

“Today, with your graduation, we are glad that your potential is being fulfilled and that you are going to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth is safe. We are very glad that, as UNFPA, we have contributed to keeping this promise which has resulted in 34 of you, newly trained midwives walking out of this institution,” Dr. Ndyanabangi said.

He said over the last two years, UNFPA had invested close to US$100,000 for the construction of the Skills Lab and the upkeep of the school.

“These immense contributions toward the increase in the health workforce,” he said, “are geared at supporting the Ministry of Health Investment Plan (2015-2021) for building a resilient health system. The need for building a fit-for-purpose productive and motivated health workforce that equitably and optimally delivers quality services cannot be overemphasized and, indeed, UNFPA is committed to supporting the achievement in Liberia.”

Dr. Ndyanabangi said his organization had worked to improve the school’s infrastructure through the construction of the simulation lab to ensure the space can accommodate the requisite number of students practicing as per the Liberia Board of Nursing and Midwifery standards and equipping the new skills laboratory with furniture. He added that clinical teaching mannequins and other equipment and supplies were provided to enhance clinical learning, as well as strengthen the learning environment through the provision of basic student’s needs. These also included teaching materials and internet services for sustainable delivery of high-quality midwifery instructions, as well as support to the improvement of didactic and clinical training through capacity building and technical updates for faculty and preceptors (midwives) through the Continuing Professional Development system with the Board of Nursing and Midwifery.

It was also intended to support the improvement in the Midwifery Pre-Service Education information system through the Board of Nursing’s data-based platform and strengthen the primary clinical site.

UNFPA also provided support to the Martha Tubman Memorial Hospital, with funding from the Spotlight Initiative and Sweden, for the continuity of distance teaching and learning through the provision of internet services and electronic devices amidst COVID-19 pandemic.

Mrs. Sawah K. Shaffa, DKISM Director, celebrated UNFPA for being the backbone of the institution during difficult times the Ministry of Health was going through.

Mrs. Shaffa said the institution was closed by the government due to the lack of funding and with the help of UNFPA it was reopened with assistance to teachers in terms of food and cash.

She named the issue of salaries for institutors, lack of accreditation, renovation and feeding of students as major challenges to the institution.

Mrs. Shaffa called on graduating students to work on their attitudes as part of the agreement while they work in their various counties for the next three years.

Marculay S. Tarlee, in a valedictory message, told his fellow graduates to remember that love and science are two most important things, adding, “The skills you have and build on are fundamentally important, but the kindness and compassion you show will make a difference.”

“Keep those you serve at the center of your action. Speak out for your right to have enough time and resources to provide the care you are qualified to give. Do not fit in negative culture, rather, be positive in a negative environment,” he warned.

Mrs. Wilhelmina Flomo, President of the Midwifery Association of Liberia, in remarks thanked UNFPA for the uncounted support to midwives across Liberia that has enabled them to provide mentorship for the new breed of professionals.

She said such support has empowered the association to keep working to save the lives of both mother and child.

DKISM, formerly the Midwifery Training Program Southeastern Region (MTPSER), was established by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and CHAL in 1983 headed by Miss Deanna Kay Issacson.

The institution was established to address the lack of trained health workers, especially Midwives, in the southeast part of Liberia.

DKISM has operated for seven years and graduated over 50 certified midwives who were all assigned in southeastern Liberia. It was destroyed during the civil war and was re-established in 2008 by the Ministry of Health, with support from the McCall-MacBain Foundation (MMF) which saw Mrs. Ruth Sayee Cooper becoming the first Director, succeeded by Mrs. Anna Doe Smallwood and now, Mrs. Sawah K. Shaffa.

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