Skilled birth attendance (SBA) and essential obstetric care (EOC) are key strategies for reducing maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity globally. Lack of adequately trained competent staff is a key barrier to achieving this. We assessed the effectiveness of a new package of 'Life Saving Skills - Essential Obstetric and Newborn Care Training' (LSS-EOC and NC) designed specifically around the UN signal functions in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Among 600 healthcare providers (nurse-midwives, doctors, clinical officers and specialists), knowledge about the diagnosis and management of complications of pregnancy and childbirth as well as newborn care significantly increased (p < 0.001). There was measurable improvement in skills (p < 0.001), and participants expressed a high level of satisfaction with the training. The training package was found to meet the needs of healthcare providers, increased awareness of the need for evidence-based care and encouraged teamwork.