The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has secured British Government support for a major three year midwifery twinning project to strengthen midwifery associations and improve midwifery services in Nepal, Cambodia and Uganda. These countries were selected because they have high rates of maternal and perinatal deaths.

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, announced the news yesterday and explained that the project will be financed through the Health Partnership Scheme, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the benefit of the UK and partner country health sectors.

The main aims of the project are to improve the capacity and effectiveness of midwifery associations in each of the three countries. This will be done by using a twinning concept developed by the International Confederation of Midwives. Twinned countries work together to foster two-way learning and knowledge and skills sharing, throughout and hopefully beyond the course of the project. The RCM will work with midwifery associations and governments in each country to dovetail the project's aims with their national plans for reducing maternal and perinatal deaths and, to strengthen midwifery services.

A major focus of the project is on the UK and twinned countries learning from each other. The UK volunteer midwives will use their expertise to support midwifery associations and midwifery colleagues in their twinned country. As the project gets underway the RCM will match midwives with the relevant skills and experience to each country. They will also bring back the knowledge, skills, and lessons learnt overseas during their experience back to the UK.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "It is an international scandal that one thousand women die every day in pregnancy or childbirth and tackling the tragic scale of maternal and child deaths is a key priority.

"British midwives, nurses, and medical teams are among the best in the world. The Health Partnership Scheme allows us to harness their expertise to help give developing countries the skills needed to improve the health of some of the world's poorest people."

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "I am delighted that the RCM has received this funding to strengthen our sister associations and give the opportunity to many UK midwives who want to give something back to midwifery and help women in Nepal, Cambodia and Uganda.

"However, it is not a one-way street because we in the UK will also have a lot to learn from our colleagues overseas, who often have to deliver care in very difficult circumstances. This project is about learning and sharing experiences and practice to make a difference there and here and bring back a different perspective to midwifery in the UK.

"Our members have told us that they are very keen to see the RCM continue its international work and this is a hugely significant development in that area. This builds on the RCM's existing global work to support and strengthen midwifery worldwide."

Posted by Penny Hosie