The Discipline of Nursing has been re-designated for a four-year period as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHO CC) for the third consecutive time.

The UKZN WHO CC is one of only four such centres in the WHO Africa Region dedicated to educating nurses and midwives in community problem solving in the African region.

Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Nursing and Public Health, Professor Busi Ncama, said the announcement was reward for the Discipline’s hard work. Further progress in improving nursing and midwifery education on the continent could be expected.

‘The re-designation fulfils UKZN’s vision of African Scholarship. Our work as a WHO Collaborating Centre is in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which commit world leaders in all UN member states to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women.’

Part of the Collaborating Centre’s agreement with WHO is to provide technical support for the establishment of innovative nursing and midwifery programmes in different countries for improving nursing education and practice.

UKZN has achieved this by implementing, among others, a programme to upscale human resources in the Seychelles after discovering that the country had not trained midwives for the previous 10 years resulting in a serious lack of nurses and midwives who are qualified nurse educators.

Ncama said this initiative was extremely important in addressing the MDG goal five and six which aim for the significant improvement of maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases in the continent.

Ncama reported on the successful implementation of the projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique. These have been implemented by a consortium of Southern African Universities – University of Free State, University of Witwatersrand and the University of Botswana.

The collaboration, led by UKZN and funded by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) together with the Development Bank of South Africa through the Collaboration in Higher Education for Nursing and Midwifery in Africa (CHENMA), aims to develop capacity for healthcare by upscaling a group of educators after identifying their human resource needs and situational analysis.

The Centre has reached several milestones including the pioneering of a new Master’s Degree to improve nursing and midwifery in Cameroon, Gabon and Congo Brazzaville – all within the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). This will be in partnership with the Governments of the three countries and guided by NEPAD.

Ncama said the Centre will conduct situational analyses in June and July in the three identified countries to enable the implementation of the agreed work plans timeously and in the highest degree possible. She said she would not be able to drive this alone as Head of the Centre and acknowledged staff in the Discipline for stepping up to the plate in each project.

Ncama said Professor Fikile Mtshali, Dean of Teaching and Learning for the College of Health Sciences, participated in the development of three WHO Prototype competency-based curricula for the African region – a comprehensive four-year Nursing and Midwifery degree, and two three-year diplomas. 

The Centre has supported the development and implementation of a Master’s Degree programme in community health nursing in Kamuzu College of Nursing, Malawi. Through the use of blended teaching approaches, the Centre provides open access to the training and education of advanced midwives working in rural healthcare settings in order to address high maternal mortality rates in KwaZulu-Natal through a project funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Ncama stressed the importance of training midwives with advanced skills which also enable them to handle obstetric emergencies. The Centre had successfully trained nurses and midwives on Essential Steps for Managing Obstetric Emergencies (ESMOE) and Nurse Initiated Management of Antiretroviral Therapy (NIMART) which was also integrated into the Discipline’s basic curricular to strengthen the treatment and support of HIV-infected persons.

This initiative was initially made possible through support from Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) funding.

Ncama said the Discipline continued to support the growth and development of its own staff, promote networking, and use its on-going collaborations as a platform for staff and student recruitment.

The Discipline is one of more than 800 WHO collaborating centres in about 80 Member States working with WHO in areas such as nursing, occupational health, communicable diseases, nutrition, mental health, chronic diseases and health technologies.

These centres are institutions such as research institutes and sections of universities or academies which are designated by the WHO Director-General to carry out activities in support of the organisation’s programmes.

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