The 18-month midwifery certification training which commenced in 2014 aims to produce skilled and motivated change agents in the hinterland, where statistics show that 45% of women are delivered of their babies with the help of unskilled birth attendants, thereby increasing the risk of maternal and infant mortality in such areas.

The initiative is sponsored by the Shell Petroleum Development of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) Joint Venture in collaboration with the governments of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Abia and Akwa Ibom states and New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD).

“This is a unique intervention that invests not only in the individual beneficiaries but also in the people hoping to benefit from their newly acquired skills,” said SPDC’s acting Regional Community Health Manager, Dr. Akinwumi Fajola, at a cheque-presentation ceremony in Port Harcourt. “The training is in line with SPDC’s commitment to improving healthcare in rural areas and will make the much-needed difference in hard-to-reach locations in the Delta.” 

SPDC’s acting Head of Department, Partnership and Collaboration, Dr. Dennis Oyakhire, commended the state ministries of health for their commitment to the success of the partnership.

He said, “In 2014, the beneficiaries received the first instalment of the scholarship fund and today we are happy to be presenting the second (and final) cheques to them. We are all looking forward to enjoying the benefits of this initiative.” The Director of Nursing Services, Abia State Ministry of Health, Pastor Ekeagba Promise thanked SPDC for training the midwives.

As part of the programme, the 300 trainees are studying in accredited state schools of midwifery and also sent on clinical attachments in community hospitals, all with a view to preparing them for the final qualifying examination of the Nigerian Nursing and Midwifery Council. SPDC has provided them with modern laptops to facilitate research and documentation.

Faith Emerho, one of the beneficiaries from the Delta State School of Nursing, Sapele, said, “I was struggling through school; combining school with work until SPDC provided finances that enabled me resume my studies. I promise to be an agent of change in my community.” Faith and the other midwives are expected to graduate this year and return to their communities to provide professional medical care.

SPDC JV has supported community health projects in the Niger Delta since the 1980s, with equipment and pharmaceutical donations as well as the construction of hospitals and implementation of malaria and HIV/AIDs control programmes. At present, the SPDC JV supports 20 health centres in the region.