News / Africa

South Sudan Women Choose Family Planning, Longer Lives

Hannah McNeish
​In war-ravaged South Sudan, a lack of basic health and education, early marriage, and a culture that values big families have led to alarming child mortality rates, and given the poverty-stricken nation the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. But as aid agencies move in to provide basic healthcare, South Sudanese women are getting the chance to improve their chances for a long life.  

At a health clinic on the outskirts of Juba, women dangling babies on their laps and shushing others listen with rapt attention to a health worker explaining various methods of birth control.

Children wait for their mothers at the Antenatal Clinic in South Sudan. (VOA - H. McNeish)Children wait for their mothers at the Antenatal Clinic in South Sudan. (VOA - H. McNeish)
x
Children wait for their mothers at the Antenatal Clinic in South Sudan. (VOA - H. McNeish)
Children wait for their mothers at the Antenatal Clinic in South Sudan. (VOA - H. McNeish)
Guilty giggles and glances fill the room during the question and answer session about a new miracle in South Sudan - where the average woman has seven children and the mothers have the highest mortality rate in the world.  

Cut off for almost 50 years by Africa’s longest running civil war, newly-independent South Sudan has been building a health service from scratch with the help of international aid agencies.

But studies show that at 1.7 percent, South Sudan has one of the lowest contraceptive availability rates in the world, and that early pregnancy has increased from one-fifth to one-third of teenagers in recent years.

A mother of three, Jennifer Yeno, said she had her first child at age 15. Now just 21 years old, she explained through a translator why she is getting a hormone implant that will give her a five-year break.

“She doesn’t want that quick production - it’s not all that good. We need to have the gaps to have that happy family. People who reproduce with the gaps - they are happy.  The idea was because of this young baby you can see here - the five years will lapse when it is OK to have another baby.”

And it's not just young girls in South Sudan who are struggling to cope with large families that they have no control in limiting.

Mother of five Tabita Nadia said that at 35, her husband has got a new wife who has her own children and is pregnant with another.

She said the paltry and irregular salary of her soldier husband already makes it difficult to support her own children, who she is determined to educate in a hope that one may someday lift the family out of poverty.

"It’s only that money that army men get, and it does not come regularly. It comes sometimes. And if there is no money, she goes cracking stones in order to survive, and after cracking, she goes and pays school fees for the children.”

If Nadia works from sunup to sundown doing backbreaking work that she said makes her very sick in the chest, she can earn $100 a month.

x
South Sudan hopes to increase the contraceptive availability rate to 20 percent by 2015, as the new nation’s population grows at three percent a year and it struggles to get a grip on providing basic services.

Family planning charity Marie Stopes International (MSI) started programs in South Sudan’s three southern states, and hopes to expand to more conservative areas in time.

But as women wait patiently in the scorching sun at Gurei clinic for MSI clinical officer Jude Omal, he said it has been a tough year explaining to fellow countrymen that birth control is beneficial.

“When we were beginning, we had a lot of resistance as people think when you provide family planning to a mother, or a lady of reproductive age, she may most likely turn into a prostitute. You say ‘no, these services helps her to have children at a time when she thinks she’s ready,' so this family planning is like an empowerment to women and girls of reproductive age.”

But he said both men and women are increasingly aware about the links between a quick succession of pregnancies and lack of health care to high instances of maternal mortality.

He is hopeful that for the beleaguered women of South Sudan, where over 80 percent are deprived of an education and 16 percent married off by the age of 15, a choice will come.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid