Midwife Scholarships Program Transforms the Future of Maternal Health Care

May 23, 2024

Midwife Scholarships Program Transforms the Future of Maternal Health Care

In July 2023, the Government of Rwanda announced its 4×4 strategy, aiming to quadruple its health care provider to population ratio over the next four years. Currently, this ratio stands at 1 to 1,000, far below the World Health Organization’s recommended 4 to 1,000. The shortage of skilled midwives is particularly concerning, as midwives play a significant role in reducing risks for mothers and children during pregnancy and childbirth, contributing to decreased maternal and infant mortality rates. “In the past decade, the midwifery program at Kibogora Polytechnic (KP) has produced only 127 graduates, a figure that falls short in meeting the nationwide demand,” stated Dr. Daria Mukamusoni, Vice Chancellor at KP. 

To address this gap, Rwanda’s Ministry of Health (MOH) partnered with the USAID Ireme Activity implemented by MSH, the High Education Council, and the National Nursing and Midwifery regulatory body to increase midwife human resources in Rwanda. “Boosting our health care workforce in both quality and quantity is crucial for improving key health indicators, including maternal health,” shared Dr. Menelas Nkeshimana, Head of Health Workforce Development at the Rwanda Ministry of Health. “This [partnership] serves as inspiration for more doors to open, and it underscores the importance of all stakeholder contributions.”

This consortium identified three institutions—East African Christian College (EACC), Institut Catholique de Kabgayi (ICK), and KP—to train the next generation of health care providers. Over 3,800 submissions were received after the call for applications went out in December 2023. Dr. Anita Asiimwe, USAID Ireme Chief of Party, remarked, “These numbers underscore the Ministry of Health’s ongoing advocacy for the 4×4 strategy. The need is significant, and we are genuinely delighted to be part of this journey.” 

Midwife Scholarships Program Application Process

In February 2024, following a rigorous selection process, 500 candidates received financial aid from USAID Ireme to begin their studies under the Midwifery Scholarships Program. Dr. Mukamusoni highlighted, “This program significantly contributes to increasing student enrollment in the midwifery program and the number of future practicing midwives.” Ana Bodipo-Mbuyama, USAID Rwanda Health Office Director, added, “This program holds the promise of significantly contributing to our shared goal of mitigating preventable maternal deaths and improving health outcomes for all Rwandans.” Scholarships include full tuition at EACC, ICK, or KP and a monthly living allowance. 

Four midwifery students at a training facility in Rwanda practice resuscitation techniques on a practice doll. Photo credit MSH
Midwife students practice their skills on a model patient at EACC. Photo credit: MSH.

Among the recipients is Ange Umutoni from Kayonza District in eastern Rwanda, who now studies at KP. Being awarded the scholarship enabled her to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a midwife. Baptiste Vuguziga from Muhanga District in central Rwanda is also able to do the same, pursuing his degree at ICK.

As part of USAID Ireme’s efforts to boost health care workforce capacity and improve health outcomes, the Midwife Scholarships Program underscores MSH’s commitment to strengthening local health care leadership and addressing gaps in Rwanda’s health care workforce.

Midwife Scholarship Program students, faculty, and partners share the impact the program has already had in advancing the 4×4 strategy.