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NHS midwives teaching clinical staff in Liberia to improve care

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Two midwives who travelled to Africa to teach medical staff new skills have described their trip as a “privilege”, after they witnessed the “challenging circumstances” and “limited resources” that staff in Liberia are faced with.

Consultant midwife Helen Smith and colleague Ruth Keen spent four days training midwives and nurses in the West African country last month.

“If even just one midwife can resuscitate a baby more effectively because of our visit, that would be a real positive”

Helen Smith

The aim behind their trip was to try and tackle current statistics that show one in every 23 Liberian women die during childbirth.

The duo, who are normally based at Ipswich Hospital, also visited three medical units to see first-hand the conditions local midwives work in.

“It won’t be a country-changing contribution,” said Ms Smith. “But if even just one midwife can resuscitate a baby more effectively because of our visit, that would be a real positive.”

The midwives went to Liberia with the Life for African Mothers charity, which works to make birth safer by providing education, equipment and medication.

By carrying out their trip, the pair hope they have played a small part in improving care for mums-to-be and their babies in the country.

“Liberia has been ravaged by Ebola and the care which is available is extremely basic,” said Ms Smith.

“The medical staff work in the most challenging circumstances and with very limited resources,” she added.

Ms Smith explained how engaged the staff they trained were, and how she could see that they really wanted to “make things better”.

By the end of their visit, there was a “marked improvement in their knowledge,” she said.

“It was such a privilege to be able to spend some time in these people’s lives and hopefully make a little bit of difference,” said Ms Smith. “I would thoroughly recommend the experience,”

She said: “I’d love to return to Liberia to see what care is like in more rural areas, whether any progress has been made in the hospitals and if I could do anything more to help, as I think we all have a responsibility to do what we can to make other people’s lives better.”

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