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“I was not worried or anxious when I began my training because this was always my dream, I knew it was what I was meant to do,”

Shares Nurse Rosa, who completed training at the end of 2020 through a UNFPA-supported and Government of Flanders-funded project focusing on enhancing the quality of the midwifery workforce in Tete Province, Mozambique. 

Rosa had started her career as a cook when she decided to pursue her dream to become a Maternal and Child Health nurse in 2008, at the age of 49. She describes how her dream was always to work directly with pregnant women and newborns.

Midwives save lives. Well-trained midwives could help avert roughly two-thirds of all maternal and newborn deaths worldwide, according to UNFPA’s State of the World’s Midwifery report. As the main carers for women and their newborns during pregnancy, labour, and childbirth, midwives play a crucial role in providing life-saving services, counselling, and support.

A key and effective approach to increasing the access and availability of quality sexual and reproductive health services is by enhancing the technical skills of student nurses at the Tete Training Institute, who, upon graduation, will begin working in health facilities where support is needed most. This is particularly important to continue the positive successes of reducing maternal mortality in a country where maternal mortality has decreased from 500 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2007 to the current rate of 452 deaths per 100,000 live births (2017 Census).

Group of student nurses at the Training Institute Tete province - Moozambique ©UNFPA Mozambique

The importance of South-South Collaboration

The program also draws upon the current South-South collaboration between the Ministries of Health in Mozambique and in Cuba. As part of this agreement, three Mozambican students are taking part in a three-year post-graduate nursing programme in Cuba; while three Cuban nurses are working with the teachers and students of the Tete Training Institute in Mozambique. 

Nurse Rosa credits a lot of her confidence and skills to the visiting Cuban nurses who have taught her valuable lessons about obstetrics, incubation of premature newborns, resuscitation and intubation of newborns, the kangaroo mom method, and much more. 

The Tete Institute also received human-like mannequins to practice their skills: “because of our work with the mannequins, I knew what to do in real life. We were able to get a lot of practice with the dolls, so we know what to expect at the health facilities,” explains Rosa. 

After a year and a half of implementation, the project has achieved major achievements: in 2020, all the students that enrolled in the Institute's internship programme graduated successfully; new students are now enrolled to begin studying in February 2021. 

Nurse Rosa, encourages young people to join this career path, sharing “it’s a great opportunity. The school, the nurses, and the teachers still help me today, even after my graduation. They still learn new things at the school and pass those new skills on whenever they can.”

The Cuban nurses, in addition to working directly with the students, have also supported the development of guidelines to improve the training model and curriculum and adapt it virtually in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this technical support, 73% of the planned on-the-job training and field visits were successfully completed, along with the completion of all the internship programmes.

Cuban nurses, Yaumara, Yanet and Maria Paulina in Tete institute ©UNFPA Mozambique

The Cuban nurses, Yaumara Hernández Selema (Maternal and Child Health Specialist), Yanet Arévalo Terrero (MCH Specialist with a specialization in neonatology), and Maria Paulina Saint Hill Santiesteban (Specialist in Family Medicine), share that they see the project and their roles within it as crucial and beneficial - both professionally and personally. “The project is very important, not only for the future health professionals but also for the development of teaching methodologies because they will be the ones to take over and continue to teach the new health care workers here in Tete,” shared Nurse Yaumara. 

Working together to advance maternal health in Tete

“I really praise the Ministry of Health’s strategy to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in Mozambique. What we recommend now is that there is consistent follow-up with the students/health professionals that graduate from the Training Institute; particularly because the work we do is not static, it is dynamic and ever-changing. As we improve our methods, we need to share that new information with the students that have graduated,” shared Nurse Yanet.

The biggest legacy the Cuban nurses will leave behind is the need to have improved and continuous communication between the students and teachers and the patients and nurses. The nurses shared that through their encouragement and leading by example, teachers work closely with their students and follow their progress throughout every stage of their training, particularly during the internships. 

​​UNFPA Programme Coordinator, Vidal Mahundla and nurses part of the program ©Vidal Mahundla / UNFPA Mozambique

“This has been a positive South-South Cooperation. The emphasis on continuous dialogue between the students and teachers has greatly improved everything!”

UNFPA Programme Coordinator, Vidal Mahundla, has supported the Institute and the Cuban Technical Team since November 2018, and shares: “This has been a positive South-South Cooperation. The emphasis on continuous dialogue between the students and teachers has greatly improved everything!”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared 2021 the International Year of Nurse and Midwife to recognize the “dedication and sacrifice” of the millions of healthcare workers on the COVID-19 front line. We thank nurses like Rosa, Yaumara, Yanet, and Maria for their dedication to maternal and child health services, and the generous funding support from the Government of Flanders to help build a well-trained and well-supported midwifery workforce in Mozambique.