New Somali midwifery curriculum gets international recognition

A new midwifery curriculum for Somali midwifery schools has been approved by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) as adequately meeting globally accepted midwifery education standards. This means that the UNFPA supported training is now recognised to be of international standards and graduates from Somali midwifery schools will be internationally recognised.

UNFPA Somalia Midwifery Advisor Emily Denness explained that UNFPA worked with Somali midwifery stakeholders to develop a new version of training, with a new curriculum specifically designed to meet the global standards and essential competencies. Denness said key inputs into the development of the new curriculum came from Somali ministries of health and planning, Somali midwifery associations namely Somaliland Nursing and Midwifery Association (SLNMA), Puntland Association of Midwives (PAM) and Somali Midwifery Association (SOMA), midwifery schools and universities, health education NGOs, and other technical experts.

“UNFPA Somalia, led on the harmonization of the curriculum with international standards, while the stakeholder group led the structure and content of the curriculum ensuring relevance to the Somali context,” said Denness.

UNFPA Somalia has been supporting the training of midwives since 2011, with community midwifery programs to reach families. The level of Somali community midwifery training had been lower than the international standard to be recognised as a fully qualified midwife, so in 2015 the process began to help Somali midwifery training to become globally recognised, according to Denness.

In 2016 the curriculum was approved by all Somali ministries of health and planning as the minimum standard for Somali midwifery training, and recognised for diploma level training. It was subsequently rolled out across all 15 midwifery-training institutions, which are supported by UNFPA and submitted, to the ICM for review, according to Denness.

“ICM gave approval of the curriculum at the end of November 2016,” said Denness.

Fouzia Ismail, SLNMA executive director expressed contentment over the international recognition.

“The midwifery curriculum, if used by all, will help us standardise midwifery education. In Somaliland it will be a national diploma curriculum, endorsed by the Ministry of Health and adopted by all midwifery training institutions, to ensure the minimum levels of midwifery education and practice,” said Ismail.

Principal of Mogadishu Midwifery School and the Vice President of SOMA Hawa Abdullahi Elmi said the international recognition of Somali qualified midwives will contribute in the reduction of current high maternal and newborn deaths across all Somali regions.

“The real unknown soldiers in the fight against the current high maternal and newborn deaths are midwives,” said Elmi.

Care by appropriately qualified midwives has been proven as the most effective way of addressing maternal and newborn health globally. There is a dire shortage of midwives and lack of investment in training and health systems following decades of civil war in Somalia and this is reflected in the health of mothers; one in 22 women die of pregnancy related causes, which equates to 12 women dying every day through childbearing.

Midwifery creates opportunities to address maternal and family health, including skilled attendance at birth, birth spacing, advocating for the abandonment of female genital mutilation, promoting and supporting exclusive breastfeeding to give new-born babies the best start in life, and other public health and health promotion initiatives.

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) definition of the midwife is:

‘a person who has successfully completed a midwifery education programme that is duly recognized in the country where it is located and that is based on the ICM Essential Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice and the framework of the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education; who has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery and use the title ‘midwife’; and who demonstrates competency in the practice of midwifery.’

Key ICM midwifery concepts that define the unique role of midwives:

  • Midwives work in partnership with women to promote self-care and the health of mothers, infants, and families;
  • Midwives work with respect for human dignity and for women as persons with full human rights;
  • Midwives advocate for women so that their voices are heard;
  • Midwives show cultural sensitivity, including working with women and health care providers to overcome those cultural practices that harm women and babies;
  • Midwives focus on health promotion and disease prevention that views pregnancy as a normal life event.

For more information please contact UNFPA Somalia Communications Specialist Pilirani Semu-Banda on e-mail: