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Call for UK midwives to join lifesaving overseas volunteer programme

Thousands of health workers in the world’s poorest countries are being trained by UK midwives under a maternity volunteering aid programme.

The scheme run by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine is designed to improve emergency care in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, to improve delivery care and reduce the very high levels of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth.

It has been estimated that each year, 358,000 women worldwide die from complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth, and there are about four million neonatal deaths and three million stillbirths. Three-quarters of these occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The scheme, called Making It Happen, improved the knowledge and skills of almost 3,000 healthcare staff during 2011. The work involves volunteer midwives, obstetricians and anaesthetists from the UK.

In total the programme aims to train 17,000 workers, including around 1,000 facilitators in the countries to maintain training work in future.

Pilots of Making It Happen have shown dramatic improvements in maternal details and still-birth rates. The programme aims to contribute to the Department for International Development’s commitments to dramatically reduce lives lost during pregnancy and childbirth by 2015 and improve maternity services, particularly for the poorest 40 per cent of people globally.

Nynke van den Broek, head of the LSTM maternal and newborn health unit, said: “Here in the UK no woman or baby expects to die during pregnancy or childbirth.  Life is very different for women in many developing countries.”

The programme is currently seeking more midwives to help deliver training, working with a multidisciplinary team of UK and international staff.

A statement said: “The average duration of a trip abroad is 10 days, and all transport, subsistence and accommodation costs will be met by the programme. You would simply need to give us your time and expertise.”

Those interested can contact mnhu@liv.ac.uk or call 0151 705 3387.

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