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International Partnerships

Transforming the role of nurses and midwives in Liberia

Maternal and newborn mortality are still too frequent in Liberia, where 4 to 5 mothers and 8 to 10 newborns die every day, mostly in the period before and after birth.

Many of these deaths are due to healthcare workforce shortages that too often result in delays in the diagnosis of life threatening emergencies. With close to 300 doctors and under 20 obstetricians for a population of almost 5 million, nurses, midwives and community birth attendants can play a pivotal role in carrying out critical tasks that could save many lives.


As part of its plan to accelerate progress towards SDG3, the Government of Liberia aims to achieve a 50% reduction in national maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths by 2023.

For this to be achieved, the Liberian Ministry of Health, WHO Liberia, UNFPA Liberia and non-governmental organization Maternal and Child Health Advocacy International (MCAI) have joined efforts in a EU funded, WHO hosted Partnership.

This landmark project facilitates an in-depth training to midwifes, nurses and community birth attendants to undertake extensive training and become qualified obstetric clinicians after three years and qualified neonatal clinicians after two years. After the training, clinicians are able to perform advanced obstetric care, including abdominal surgery and advanced neonatal care, in an independent and safe manner. This task shifting from medics to nurses and midwives has transformed delivery coordination and patient care and helped avoid dangerous delays in managing emergencies.

Achieving health related SDG targets in Liberia and countries around the world, requires equitable access to high quality accessible and affordable health care services. Nurses and midwives play a vital role in connecting communities and families with the health system, particularly in rural or hard to reach areas. Therefore, investing in a highly trained and well remunerated workforce, including nurses, midwives and community birth assistants, is critical to save the lives of mothers and newborns and to ensure the communities have access to quality primary care from the very beginning.

Liberia mother and child

On this year’s World Health Day, the European Union reiterates the critical role that nurses and midwives play in the delivery of essential health services and the achievement of universal health coverage. Through its investments in the UHC Partnership, the EU supports the strengthening of the nurses and midwifery workforce as the backbone of health systems and the key to achieving health for all.

The European Union reiterated its support to The Universal Health Coverage Partnership by signing a €102 million contribution to the programme in June 2019. The grant will support health system strengthening activities between 2019 and 2022.

In Liberia, WHO hosts the Partnership and its day-to-day functions at the country level and provides office space, training facilities, logistical support, and funding for training of the midlevel obstetric and neonatal advanced training and apprenticeship.