Giving Mothers a Chance at Safe Deliveries in South Sudan

Giving Mothers a Chance at Safe Deliveries in South Sudan

The community midwife sitting with Suzanna Ile and her son, Modi, in South Sudan. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Blog post updated Dec. 27, 2011.

Suzanna Ile is a 26-year old woman from Lokiliri Payam in South Sudan. Suzanna lost her first two babies in child birth. During her third pregnancy, a community midwife at Lokiliri Primary Healthcare Centre -- a health facility supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the MSH-led Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II) -- recognized Suzanna’s contracted pelvis and identified her high risk pregnancy.

Without access to emergency services and a health facility capable of performing a Caesarean section, the midwife knew Suzanna would likely lose her third child as well. A contracted pelvis often results in obstructed labor, fistulas, postpartum hemorrhage, or the death of the infant and mother. The midwife discussed with Suzanna alternative delivery options during an antenatal care visit.

Unfortunately, labor complications like Suzanna’s are common throughout South Sudan, but few women have access to adequate services. Less than 0.5 percent of pregnancies in hospitals are delivered via Caesarian section-- the lowest rate in Africa -- while the maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world (2,054/100,000). The majority of women in South Sudan give birth at home with a traditional birth attendant, feeling that medical facilities are too dirty, exposing, or far away. Without skilled birth attendants or access to emergency obstetric care, many women have no options if their deliveries become dangerous.

Decades of civil war destroyed most of the health infrastructure in South Sudan, but gradual progress is being made and services are improving. By delivering equipment, providing trainings, and strengthening capacity of health facilities like Lokiliri, SHTP II is working on behalf of women to move health service delivery from relief to development. USAID is working to increase both access and demand at facilities for maternal and child health services.

Suzanna listened to the advice of the midwife at the clinic and delivered by caesarean section at Juba Teaching and Referral Hospital. Her son, Modi, is now a healthy two year old. Offering advice to other women in her community, Suzanna said, “To the ones who prefer delivery on their own, [a hospital delivery] is their chance [for a safe delivery if complications arise].”

David Lukudu, MBChB, DTM&H, MScTMIH is the Primary Health Care Advisor/Training Focal Point on the SHTP II project in South Sudan.