By: Andrews Gunda and Roya Sadri-zadeh
On January 27, the Government of Malawi and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. (CHAI) hosted a ceremony marking the official transition of newly constructed infrastructure from the Ministry of Health to colleges of nursing and midwifery. In total 11 new classrooms and student hostels were constructed for seven colleges of Nursing and Midwifery. The ceremony took place at the St. Joseph College of Nursing and Midwifery in Chiradzulu District in the Southern Region of Malawi.
Malawi has long suffered from acute shortages of nurses and midwives, affecting the country’s capacity to effectively handle the large burden of HIV and malaria, alleviate maternal and child mortality, and meet the population’s need for family planning services. While the critical threshold for a country’s health workforce is 23 doctors, nurses, and midwives per 10,000 individuals, as set by the World Health Organization, there are currently approximately 3.5 doctors, nurses, and midwives per 10,000 in Malawi. The country’s maternal mortality ratio remains unacceptably high at approximately 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Malawi also has one the highest total fertility rates among African counties and in the world, with 5.5 children being born to each woman, on average.
In 2013, CHAI was invited by the Malawi Ministry of Health to address the nation’s critical workforce shortage by developing and implementing a health worker training program, in an effort to increase the availability of nurses, midwives, and community health workers to strengthen the continuum of care and improve access to emergency obstetric and family planning services throughout Malawi. Several construction projects were planned as part of the program to increase the enrollment capacity of training colleges and improve the quality of training environments. This work was generously funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE) of the Government of Norway.
During the first phase of infrastructure improvement, CHAI constructed four student hostels to house students, four classrooms, two lecture theatres, and one skills lab in seven nursing and midwifery colleges across the country. This work created classroom space for 568 students and hostel room for 380 additional students to undergo training. The structures were constructed exclusively by local Malawian contractors.
The handover ceremony was attended by the Guest of Honor, Minister of Health Dr. Peter Kumpalume; the Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Mr. Kikkan Haugen; directors and officials from the Ministry of Health; members of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Malawi; district officials; the Chair of Board of Management of Christian Association of Malawi; heads of nursing and midwifery colleges; CHAI’s Country Director; representatives of international organizations operating in Malawi; and members of the media, among others.
During his speech, Dr. Kumpalume reiterated the government’s commitment to continue the fight to reduce maternal and infant mortality through improved availability of health workers and thanked CHAI and the Government of Norway for their shared efforts to work toward this goal. He acknowledged that the country still experienced a critical shortage of health workers and that training and recruitment of nurses and midwives must be continued to fill in the existing gaps in the health workforce.
Norwegian Ambassador Haugen also spoke at the ceremony, expressing his gratitude to those involved in the project. He assured the audience of Norway’s continued commitment to support improving the health of Malawians.
CHAI’s Country Director, Andrews Gunda, emphasized the importance of training, recruitment, and equitable deployment of nurses and midwives across the country to reduce maternal mortality and improve other health indicators. He outlined program achievements, including the enrollment and education of 701 nurse midwife technicians, 30 registered nurse midwives, 26 nursing education students, and 435 community midwife assistants in colleges through scholarships provided by CHAI’s Human Resources for Health program since 2013. The program has also recruited tutors for colleges, provided student transportation, supported clinical training of students, and engaged in other activities to support education of health workers.
Mr. Gunda noted that CHAI was also constructing a maternity clinic at Chirdzulu District, which, in addition to providing reproductive health services, will serve as a training center for qualified nurses and midwives. The construction of two more student hostels is slated to start in May 2017. He ended by reiterating CHAI’s commitment in supporting Malawi’s Human Resources for Health agenda.
This handover marks a successful transition of a part of the Human Resources for Health project that will enable colleges to assume ownership of further educational and deployment decisions to improve the health of Malawians.
The new infrastructure will not only contribute to the sustainability of training nurses and midwives, but will help further strengthen the role of the Ministry of Health in leading the agenda and plans for increasing Malawi’s health workforce. CHAI is committed to supporting these efforts and looks forward to a continued partnership to ensure that Malawians receive quality, accessible health care.
To learn more about CHAI’s Human Resource for Health work in Malawi, please contact Roya Sadri-zadeh, Program Manager, Human Resources for Health, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc.