Training birth attendants in South Sudan

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South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world. “For every 100,000 live births, about 2,054 pregnant women die due to labour and delivery complications.” “One out of seven pregnant women dies due to pregnancy-related causes in South Sudan.” A majority of these deaths could be prevented if women had access to proper obstetric care. In a country of 8 million, there are 10 midwives with diplomas and less than 100 midwives who lack formal training.

Midwives play a vital role in the delivery process. “When midwives are properly educated, empowered, and authorized with essential basic life-saving competencies, they can avert the vast majority of maternal deaths.” The UNFPA supports a diploma program for midwifery and nursing in the capital of Juba and an education program for midwifery in a few smaller towns. Ms. Ogol states, “We should not want to get rid of the traditional births attendants, but help to improve their skills.”

South Sudan

Sixteen-year-old Akuot was beaten for three days after she refused to be married off in exchange for a dowry of cattle, is shown here in Bor, Jonglei state, South Sudan, Feb. 2013. Photo Courtesy of Brent Striton. Reportage for Human Rights Watch.

Traditional midwives are already in place in various settings around the country. Traditional midwives are respected by the community and well versed in local customs. Utilizing the respect that is already in place will increase the midwives’ ability to impact the community. Suggestions from the traditional midwives on hygiene practices and family planning will be more powerful compared to an outsider with the same message. Traditional birth attendants need be provided with the knowledge, tools, and support to recognize complications, treat patients locally, or transfer patients to a higher level of care.

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2 Responses to “Training birth attendants in South Sudan”

  1. shilpav7 Says:

    I agree that the training traditional midwives will help decrease maternal mortality. They are more familiar with the community, and aware of the local customs, and will therefore be effective in communicating important information on family planning, pre- and post-natal care, and care of the new born. However, while this might be an immediate solution to the problem, advocating for more funds to provide better infrastructure will ensure a long-term decrease in maternal mortality rates, in rural areas. The reason being that the midwives often lack medicines and essential equipment needed for averting complications at birth. If they needed to refer a mother to a hospital for delivery, they are faced with a host of other issues – initial reluctance by the mothers and elders in the family, lack of access to the hospitals, monetary issues, etc. So in parallel to training traditional midwives and equipping them with the tools, the women in rural South Sudan should be made aware of the need for a skilled attendant to be present at delivery, and the complications that can arise during child birth. This will push the community as a whole to work towards instituting change — petitioning for better roads, and better equipped hospitals. Thus, I believe lowering the maternal mortality rate in South Sudan will require a more concerted effort, beyond that of just training traditional midwives.

  2. pssebbowa Says:

    I agree that Traditional Birth Attendants should be trained and incorporated in the health sector. This would greatly improve the doctor to patient ratio in South Sudan. This however would require a committed government that prioritizes health. In most of Sub Saharan Africa, such commitment is quite uncommon. Meanwhile to kick off such a process, there is need for a huge base of financial resources and good leadership so as to make sure that all the funds meet their intended function.

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