Canada and WHO strides to improve maternal and child health in South Sudan

Juba, 29 November 2017: “I believe I gave birth successfully because I came to the hospital and followed all the advice given to me,” said Nyangouk Dot a thirty-four-year-old mother who came to the Kuajok maternity complex in early labour.

Fully aware of her previous losses at birth, the midwives at the maternity complex immediately admitted and managed her condition.  The seven months’ pregnant mother gave birth to a healthy baby boy and smiled to the doctors and midwives who have been attending to her regularly during her admission at the hospital.

This is just one of the many stories of more than 96 000 beneficiaries who have benefited from the Emergency Obstetric and Newborn care service provided at the six project sites where committed obstetricians and midwives deployed by WHO serves since the inception of the six-year Comprehensive Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care (CEmONC) project in 2011.

At 789 deaths per 100 000 live births, South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Most of the causes of maternal death are preventable, particularly when women receive the recommended antenatal care, are made aware of possible pregnancy-related complications and how to respond to them, and are able to deliver under the care of a skilled birth attendant – such as a midwife, nurse or doctor – who is able to refer patients to emergency services when necessary.

Honorable Dr Riek Gai Kok, Minister of Health, commended the considerable progress that has been made by WHO with Canada’s support to increase the coverage of emergency obstetric care services, said.  Enhancing the availability of services to women and creating suitable environments for women requiring obstetric medical attention increase women's confidence in use the formal health care system.

Strengthening community and state health care services to save lives

Childbirth remains among the leading causes of death for women globally. A recent report entitled ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality’ by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, the World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division estimates that in 2015 alone around 303 000 women died as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, leaving hundreds of thousands of children motherless.

Inadequate obstetric and neonatal care provided by health facilities coupled with lack of skilled health care providers, cultural barriers and traditions as well as poverty and lack of information prevent women from accessing maternal and newborn health services.

To improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and children, WHO with support from the Government of Canada strengthens the emergency obstetric care services through establishment of six fully equipped maternity complexes in Wau, Awiel, Kuajok, Bor, Yambio, and Torit with emergency and delivery rooms, gynecological ward, operating theatres and maternity waiting homes as well as deploying international obstetricians and gynecologists and midwives to save the lives of mothers and newborns, while building the capacity of middle level and allied health workers in basic emergency obstetric and new born care. 

The Canadian Ambassador to South Sudan His Excellency Alan Hamson, applauded WHO’s efforts and the leadership of the Ministry of Health in reducing maternal mortality and saving lives. H.E. the Ambassador highlighted “Canada’s focus on increasing women’s access to health care so that they are better able to develop their own lives and their communities”. He also commended the dedicated health professionals who have continued to provide life-saving health services despite the difficult circumstances.

The implementation the five-year CEmONC project as well as the adoption of the ‘health through the life course’ initiative has saved the lives of many mothers and children across the country, said Mr Evans Liyosi, WHO Representative a.i. to South Sudan.  To curb maternal and neonatal mortality and achieve the ambitious target of reducing maternal deaths to fewer than 70 per 100 000 live births globally, as included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), WHO is committed to provide support to the people of South Sudan through better integration of quality maternal, newborn and child health care Mr Liyosi added.

Since 2011, WHO has been able to support the Ministry of Health with emergency obstetric care under the CEmONC project. On 28 and 29 November 2017, two of the six newly constructed fully-equipped maternity complexes in Torit and Yambio were officially opened in a remarkable and colorful celebration by Honorable Dr Riek Gai Kok, Minister of Health, Republic of South Sudan, accompanied by members of the National Legislative Assembly,  Governors of the respective states, the  Canadian Ambassador to South Sudan, Director Generals from various line ministries, the WHO Representative a.i., and other national and state officials among others.
 

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