South Sudanese mothers and babies survive in conflict

South Sudanese mothers and babies survive in conflict

By Lynette Kamau.

During times of crisis, many women are unable to access maternal health services due to insecurity. Some are forced to flee their homes due to conflict and are not able to access a health facility. For many of them, this lack of access to health facilities or any form of assistance, is a matter of life and death for them and their children.

The conflict and fragility of South Sudan has led to the deaths of many women from preventable pregnancy and delivery complications. Even though the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births has reduced from 2,054 in 2006 to 789 in 2015 according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the situation is still severe.

To contribute to reducing maternal and child mortality, researchers supported by the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) initiative are looking at community-centered approaches to enhance the linkage between communities and health facilities in fragile contexts and thereby increase the utilization of maternal health services. Read about the maternal health services provided by two health facilities working with the researchers supported by the IMCHA initiative in Torit, Imotong State.


A pregnant mother undergoes screening at the Nyong Health Facility in Torit, South Sudan as part of prenatal care. In South Sudan only 17% of women attend the four antenatal visits recommended by WHO. From information disseminated by researchers working in the IMCHA supported project, some of the reasons pregnant women are not utilizing maternal health services is because of the long distances to health facilities, lack of transport, flooding and poor roads as well as cultural practices. Researchers are testing whether community-approaches will increase access and utilization of maternal health services.

A woman holds her child as they wait patiently for the doctor during a postnatal visit. Even though the postnatal period is a critical phase in the lives of mothers and newborn babies, according to WHO, it is the most neglected period for the provision of quality care yet most maternal and infant deaths occur during this time. The IMCHA supported project is implementing and assessing community-centered approaches to facilitate access and utilization of maternal health services during labor, birth and the immediate postnatal period to improve newborn and maternal survival.

A child being immunized during a postnatal visit at the Torit Hospital in Imotong State, South Sudan. Torit Hospital is one of the health facilities working with researchers supported by the IMCHA initiative.

A health worker conducts a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) test to assess assessment nutritional status of the child. MUAC is recommended for children between six and 59 months of age. This type of screening is essential as enables health workers detect children with nutritional problems early. Malnutrition is a major cause of mortality among children.

Mothers wait at the nutrition clinic in Nyong Health Facility so that their children can be screened. Some of the mothers have to trek long distances to access the facility as it is one of the closest ones in Torit, Imotong State. The nutrition clinic is part of the hospitals’ efforts to ensure that mothers receive counselling and support to ensure their children are healthy

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