Scholarship Stories: PHASE Worldwide is Changing Lives in NEPAL
PHASE Worldwide’s journey began around a kitchen table in Rotherham by a group of friends with a love for Nepal. Now, with funding from the Burdett Trust, PHASE Worldwide’s latest project is increasing the skill and capacity of Nepalese health workers to provide safe and woman-centred pregnancy and delivery care.
Can you tell us a little about you and your role?
Dr Gerda Phol: I am a founding trustee of PHASE Worldwide and the honorary Health Advisor to PHASE in Nepal. I worked as a GP in the NHS for 8 years after PHASE started in 2005 and travelled to Nepal twice a year during that time.
Since 2013, I have been resident in Nepal again, working for other health organisations and continuing my voluntary support for PHASE.
What is the focus of your funded project?
The focus of the project funded by the Burdett Trust is on increasing the skill and capacity of Nepalese health workers to provide safe and woman-centred pregnancy and delivery care.
The health workers are Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) with 18 months training in maternal and child health care. They are not Skilled Birth Attendants (SBA) by WHO definition, although many of them are very good, and they are definitely saving lives in the remote areas where they work.
PHASE Nepal employs them to work in remote rural government health posts (currently 19) which often do not have any other skilled staff.
Why is this work important?
Because PHASE ANMs work in very isolated areas and are often the only health professional available to provide care for women in labour, it is essential that they are as skilled as possible, and that they have appropriate formal qualifications.
PHASE Nepal runs yearly 3-day update courses for all our ANMs, which helps their skill development, but does not give them formal qualifications, which they should really have to work in government birthing centres.
The government of Nepal has a very strong focus on improving maternal health care and upskilling ANMs to SBA level is one of the activities within this programme.
There is a standardised 2-month course for this purpose, which is, not easy to access for non-government organisations and charities, and is also quite expensive (around 1/3 to 1/2 of an annual salary for an ANM).
Whom does this work help?
Upskilling PHASE ANMs will help women and newborn babies in some of the most remote areas of Nepal. Being attended by a skilled health professional at birth is the best way to save mothers’ and babies’ lives and protect their health at this dangerous point in life.
Several of the communities where PHASE works did not have any skilled birth attendants before. Many families have lost young women in childbirth, and many mothers have suffered the loss of their babies through stillbirths or neonatal deaths.
Higher skilled birth attendants will save lives.
It will also help PHASE ANMs to develop their professional profile and secure their future, even if they do not continue to work for PHASE long term. For many it is not possible to work in such remote areas after they marry and have children.
How did Burdett Trust’s funding help the project?
PHASE has been trying for years to get more of our ANMs developed to SBA status but we did not have dedicated funding for this. This is because government courses do not generally admit NGO workers. As a result, we have not been able to get places for our ANMs in the existing courses.
With the funding from Burdett Trust, we will be able to work with the course organisers to run one 2-month course exclusively for PHASE Nepal, allowing 8-10 of our ANMs to become skilled birth attendants.
How will this project grow and develop in the future?
PHASE Nepal has recently set up its own specific training fund, which may allow the organisation to fund SBA training for 1-2 ANMs per year. However, we will have to find additional external funding for this bulk training.
PHASE Nepal is constantly reviewing its health programmes and may employ more nurses or even midwives in future, in addition to ANMs. (We are currently sponsoring 2-3 ANMs every year to study nursing.)
Please visit here to find out more about the project.