Saving the lives of mothers and babies in South Sudan

Maria gave birth to her first child at a primary health care centre funded by HPF. “Many women in our community die in child birth. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wanted to come here where there is a trained midwife.” Credit: HPF/Liz Pick

Find out about the lifesaving work of the South Sudan Health Pooled Fund in this guest post for International Women’s Day…

Worldwide, more than 300,000 pregnant women and girls die every year due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. The scale of maternal mortality across the world reflects a situation of inequality and discrimination suffered by women throughout their lifetimes.

From 1990 to 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 44% – from 385 deaths to 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, despite these improvements, Sub-Saharan Africans continue to suffer from the highest maternal mortality ratio, globally accounting for two-thirds (66%) of all maternal deaths per year worldwide.

South Sudan in particular continues to have some of the world’s worst indicators in maternal and child health. While some progress in reducing the maternal mortality rate has been made – it was recently revised down from an astonishing 2,054 deaths per 100,000 live births – it still remains unacceptably high.

At 789 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, South Sudan’s rate is more than double that of neighbouring Uganda (343) and a whopping 87 times higher than in the United Kingdom where only nine in 100,000 women die in childbirth.

As many as 98 percent of maternal deaths are estimated to be preventable if births are attended by skilled health personnel – doctors, nurses or midwives – who are regularly supervised, have the proper equipment and supplies, and can refer women in a timely manner to emergency obstetric care when complications are diagnosed. Complications require prompt access to quality obstetric services equipped with lifesaving drugs, including antibiotics, and the ability to provide blood transfusions needed to perform Caesarean sections or other surgical interventions.

17-year old Nyawal gave birth to her one-month-old son Kan Kuol at a primary health care facility funded by HPF. “I came to the clinic to deliver because of my past experience. I gave birth once before at home but the child died during delivery. This time I was lucky, it was a normal delivery but I felt safer with trained staff and they gave me medicine to prevent bleeding.” Credit: HPF/Liz Pick

For these reasons, the Health Pooled Fund (HPF) – supported by the governments of the UK, USA, Canada, Sweden and the EU – has been transforming the lives of millions of people in South Sudan by providing access to good quality basic health services in partnership with South Sudan’s Ministry of Health.

HPF recently made significant steps towards expanding and improving comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal care services by upgrading two primary health care facilities. Both facilities were located in highly populated areas with limited or no access to emergency services. By establishing operating theatres with qualified staff in these locations, HPF has brought lifesaving emergency obstetric services, including caesarean sections and blood transfusions, to mothers who might otherwise have died in childbirth.

You can read about this work and meet some of the women who survived thanks to emergency obstetric care on HPF’s medium blog here (Emergency caesarean sections saving lives in land-locked Ganyiel) and here (HPF makes life-saving surgery a reality in remote Panyijiar county).

Follow HPF on Facebook for ongoing updates.