Sun, Sep 04, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan plans to help combat infant mortality in Gambia

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Taiwan’s infant mortality rate has been kept to under five deaths per 1000 since 2006, but the average rate for African countries remains as high as 32 deaths per 1000.

After conducting a feasibility study in Gambia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to launch a midwifery training program in the western African country, the only one of Taiwan’s four African allies in which Taiwan does not dispatch permanent medical missions, an official said.

“In Africa, nearly 1 million newborn babies die each year. Following Gambia, we also plan to implement the program in Swaziland,” said Lee Pai-po (李柏浡), deputy secretary-general of the ministry-affiliated Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (Taiwan ICDF).

Lee said the program would be a new form of development assistance that Taiwan has not performed since its first overseas medical mission was established in 1962.

“The idea came mainly from Taiwan having been through the same problems the African countries still encounter and now we can help them,” Lee said.

According to figures released by the National Union of Midwives Association, the number of pregnancies assisted by a midwife has declined dramatically in Taiwan, with 99.9 percent of births taking place in hospitals.

“Due to vicissitudes within the society, most students who have midwifery education and training can only choose to be general nurses in Taiwan. But with the program in place, we can help less developed countries in building midwifery capacity,” said Jeffrey Chen (陳志福), chief of the medical division at the ICDF’s Humanitarian Department.

Under the four-year program starting next year, the ICDF will work in conjunction with the Graduate Institute of Nursery-Midwifery at National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Science to train 40 Gambian medical personnel annually to become trainers for midwives, Chen said.

During that period, Taiwan will provide intensive courses for a total of 180 to 200 hours a month to be held in July and August in Gambia and annually invite eight Gambian medical personnel to come to Taiwan to receive further education and training of up to three months, Chen said.

The program will first be carried out in the Upper River Division in the Gambia, one of the six administrative divisions in the country, where the infant mortality rate is higher than Gambia’s national average.

“We believe three or four years later, they will have the capacity to take over the program and implement the program in other administrative divisions on the Upper River division,” Chen said.

At the end of this month, four Gambian medical personnel will arrive in Taiwan to undergo clinical training and courses in theory and four others will come early next year. They will join a group of Taiwanese teaching assistants to launch the program in Gambia in July, Chen said.

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