Ausaid Annual Report

australian agency for international development
  • A midwife workforce for Papua New Guinea

A midwife workforce for Papua New Guinea

With support from the Australian aid program, Gabriella Joseph is studying to be a midwife to make childbirth safer for women on Ferguson Island, Milne Bay.

There are no midwives on her island home where she was working as a general nurse at a health centre serving 6000 people.

Women suffering from pregnancy complications had to make a four-hour journey by dinghy and road to the nearest hospital for skilled help.

"When I came to study midwifery I had a picture of maternal deaths and maternal problems—it's a reality for me. So I hope to study and achieve and learn as much as I can so I can go out and help," she said.

Papua New Guinea's maternal mortality rate is the highest in the Asia–Pacific outside of Afghanistan. A woman in Papua New Guinea is 80 times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth compared to a woman in Australia.

Gabriella, 33, is one of 104 women and men currently studying for a Bachelor of Midwifery at four Papua New Guinean midwifery schools with Australia's support.

The intensive one-year degree, provided under the Australia Awards Pacific Scholarships program, is targeted at young women from rural areas and combines theory, 28 weeks of clinical practicals and four weeks of rural practise.

Eight midwifery facilitators work with the teachers and students to improve teaching quality and produce confident graduates. With their assistance 68 students completed the course in 2012—a 96 per cent graduation rate.

From 2011 to 2015 Australia is training up to 500 midwives. This will result in an additional 8000 supervised births each year. Australia is also refurbishing the four midwifery schools and building a fifth school to expand capacity to train midwives in quality conditions.

Caption: Midwifery student Gabriella Joseph at Susu Mamas, Port Moresby

Credit: Andrew Gavin, AusAID