News / Africa

South Sudan Still Most Dangerous Country For New Mothers

Women wait outside the packed, stuffy maternity ward of Juba's hospital, South Sudan. (H. McNeish / VOA)Women wait outside the packed, stuffy maternity ward of Juba's hospital, South Sudan. (H. McNeish / VOA)
x
Women wait outside the packed, stuffy maternity ward of Juba's hospital, South Sudan. (H. McNeish / VOA)
Women wait outside the packed, stuffy maternity ward of Juba's hospital, South Sudan. (H. McNeish / VOA)
Hannah McNeish
JUBA, South Sudan — A year after independence, South Sudan is still battling a lack of staff and resources as it tries to end its distinction of having the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

In a steaming hot room in South Sudan’s main hospital, women puffing and wailing from labor pains squeeze up next to each other in a maternity ward with just 8 beds.

But more than 90 percent of births in South Sudan happen without the help of a skilled birth attendant, and more than 2,000 women die for every 100,000 live births.  This makes South Sudan one of the most dangerous places in the world to have a baby.

With no room left in the maternity unit, 22-year-old Nancy Francisco lies in a nearby ward getting ready to deliver her third baby.

She says that she has decided to come to a hospital because at home, there could be complications such as bleeding. She says she doesn’t know anyone that has died at home, but she has heard about that happening.

The United Nations’ Population Fund (UNFPA) is one of the main agencies trying to combat maternal mortality.  But in a country ravaged by more than five decades of civil war until independence from Sudan last year, aid agencies, like the nation, are struggling with the basics.

Gillian Garnett, a UNFPA midwifery specialist, says that she has never seen challenges like those faced in the world’s newest nation - a loss of some 2 million people to the war, countless others fleeing abroad or missing out on basic education.

Mothers who have just given birth sit on some of the hospital's eight maternity beds, Juba, South Sudan. (H. McNeish/VOA)Mothers who have just given birth sit on some of the hospital's eight maternity beds, Juba, South Sudan. (H. McNeish/VOA)
x
Mothers who have just given birth sit on some of the hospital's eight maternity beds, Juba, South Sudan. (H. McNeish/VOA)
Mothers who have just given birth sit on some of the hospital's eight maternity beds, Juba, South Sudan. (H. McNeish/VOA)
“One of the major issues here for South Sudan is human resources for health, and in particular midwives.  We know that in maternal health and to reduce mortality, access to skilled attendants at birth can reduce maternal mortality as much as 30 percent, and here in South Sudan there’s just a limited number of midwives,” Garnett said.

Garnett says that South Sudan only has eight registered midwives.

Julia Amatoko is one of three that works at Juba’s hospital.  She says the three professional midwives only work up until 7 p.m., and that two women have died at night as community midwives and traditional birth attendants cannot cope with serious cases.

“For me, I want all those community midwives to be trained again, and others to be trained again, to increase the quality [of] care [for] the mother,” Amatoko said.

Doctor Mergani Abdalla, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at the hospital, says that trying to reduce maternal mortality is hampered by culture and a lack of awareness about maternal health.  He says most women wait until the last minute to come to a hospital.  He says that even if the drugs and the facilities are there, the hospitals may not have the right people to deal with these cases.

“She is now in a health facility, we can say a secondary health facility. If the personnel is not around, the intervention is delayed also, there will be complications. So, we have the highest maternal mortality in the world, due to bleeding, infection and other indirect causes -- you have malaria, you have HIV, you have anemia, all this,” Merfani said.

Despite building its first blood bank this year, the hospital still relies on a small fridge full of blood donated mainly by relatives for people awaiting surgery.

Breaking down taboos about blood donation will be the only way to fill the bank and stop deaths caused by blood loss, the most common cause of maternal mortality, even in the hospital.

​But no one expects a quick fix to a problem in such a vast and neglected country that lacks proper roads needed for women to even reach their nearest health facility.

There is great hope for the first batch of midwives to graduate from school next year. With around 200 new midwives expected to join the ranks, the future for South Sudan’s new mothers looks much brighter.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: koang kay from: Upper Nile state
July 17, 2012 8:10 AM
the is south sudan is real country. we need to support the new nation new south sudan

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid