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VSO/Georgie Scott

Improving maternal health in Malawi

Malawi has one of the worst rates of mothers dying in childbirth in the world. Growing up in her village, 22-year-old student midwife Lilian Mkunga observed how many women and babies in her community died unnecessarily because they couldn't access proper healthcare. 

Student midwife in Malawi | VSO ©VSO/Georgie Scott

“I wanted to become a midwife to help women in my village, and to encourage them to seek medical care to prevent deaths”

Lillian Mkunga, student midwife

The chronic shortage of trained health workers plays a big part in the high maternal mortality rate here. VSO worked in seven colleges in Malawi, raising student nurse and midwife performance and pass rates by harnessing the power of skilled volunteers to:

  • improve the quality of training for students
  • continue professional development for qualified staff
  • strengthen management information systems

Enhancing midwife skills at the village level

As part of VSO's plan for improving chances for expectant mothers in Malawi, 60 young women from rural communities were selected by their village chiefs to receive a year of midwifery training. Lillian was among those young women and travelled to Holy Family Hospital in Phalombe, Malai, to be trained by VSO volunteer Beth Connolly.

She's taught Lillian and other nurse midwife students some fundamental and basic midwifery skills including teaching breech birth, neonatal resuscitation and postnatal care for newborns. She also supported midwives and students to understand the critical nature of a baby's first 48 hours and the simple checks that can save lives.

VSO volunteer Beth Connolly with midwife Lillian Mkunga and a mother with her newborn baby ©VSO/Georgie Scott

"When I help a woman deliver a healthy baby, I feel so happy as if the baby is my own. I can help many more women in need of care now in my own community.”

Lillian Mkunga (far left) with a mother she has helped deliver her child, and VSO volunteer Beth Connolly.

Working in partnership

This project is helping advance the Government of Malawi’s National Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights policy, and the Road Map for Accelerating the Reduction of Maternal and Neonatal morbidity in Malawi. 

VSO works with partners including Royal College Nurses, Royal College of Midwives, and the Malawi Initiative for National Development to encourage volunteering as an integral and highly valuable part of a career in medicine.

We help remove practical barriers for UK health professionals such as enabling them to meet their legal required number of hours for Continuous Professional Development and other support for annual accreditation.

Interested in partnering with us?

Find out more about our partnerships, or contact

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