The lights have flickered from dim to dimmer. The workday was over and most of the staff had gone home. I walked gingerly, crunching some pebbles in the dirt road and as I entered World Vision’s small row of makeshift office in Yambio, I found Dr. Betty still hunched in her table to complete the day’s tasks. “I have to finish the work today, they will double and triple tomorrow”, she tells me with a smile.
She she adds, “Our collaboration work with the government and health partners is getting better. It is really improving and it is good for the communities. There are so many challenges but this is normal with humanitarian work.”
Dr. Betty Muze who hails from Tanzania, is World Vision’s Program Manager for Health and Nutrition in Western Equatoria. The program covers four counties across the three states of Maridi for Ibba County, Gbudue for Yambio and Nzara Counties and Tambura for Ezo County. These four counties have a total of 104 health facilities servicing a population of 442,599 as beneficiaries of the program for which three are hospitals, 17 are primary health care centres and 84 are primary health units. The program is specifically focused on women and children.
Yambio’s County Health Director James Ezekiel and Dr. Betty talk to a pregnant mother at the health center. Dir. Ezekiel has praised World Vision for its health initiatives.
Often she felt overwhelmed. “The need is massive, more than anyone can ever imagine. Malaria remains the leading cause of deaths followed by pneumonia and diarrhea”, her face turned sad as she recounted health conditions the team is up against on a daily basis. Dr. Betty added, “If the rainy season comes, the patients who go to hospitals and clinics can double. The good this on this is, this time they go to the facilities instead of the traditional healers.”
As an achiever since she was a child, she is not deterred by the conditions she is faced with. “Building the skills and capacity of the local health workers is very important and that is what we are doing”, she said. Last June, Lot 23 managed by Dr. Betty that is funded by the Health Pooled Fund was recognized as one of the best performers in reproductive health in the country. “In a very tough context like South Sudan where often the field staff’s lives are in danger, this achievement is a celebration for us”, she shared.
Yambio’s County Health Director James Ezekiel praised World Vision’s dedication from trainings to providing resources in addressing the health needs of the people, most of them urgent. With a population of over 200,000 people, it is being served by 33 health facilities, eleven were closed down due to insecurity. “The changes were dramatic when World Vision started its health and nutrition programs”, Mr. Ezekiel said.
Dr. Betty works closely with South Sudanese women. “Without women the whole human species would cease to exist. It is a woman who bears a child in her womb and gives birth to a new life. She is a mother and the one who teaches her children how to eat, walk, talk, run, read, write and succeed in various tests of life.”
She adds, “She helps her children to fight against failure and retry and succeed. She cares for her children till her last breath. As a woman, I have a passion to serve the lives of other women to help them to have good life and give birth to new lives.”
“Just look at the health indicators in South Sudan. It has a maternal mortality ratio of 2054. Most of these deaths occur during pregnancy and child birth. As a female doctor, I am dedicated to women to support their status of being women. I spend most of time here in Western Equatoria to help women to have their dream come true. Through World Vision, the health and nutrition program that I lead has initiated interventions to strengthen community health care at community and health facilities level”, she further says.
Gradually, the program is helping change mindsets that men should take an active role in supporting their pregnant wives and caring for children after they are delivered.
At community levels, Dr. Betty explained that the program to prevent severe bleeding after child birth has been initiated. Community health volunteers have been trained targeting deliveries that occur at homes. Groups of male champions have been formed to support women from pregnancy to child birth. Women are encouraged to utilize health care services.
She says, “The program has really been successful as men are escorting their pregnant women for ante natal care services and ensure they give birth in health facilities, even carrying their children for vaccination in a health facility.” “I believe that as a female doctor, I have played a big role to empower women on child spacing by educating them on making informed health choices on the number of children and when to have pregnancy”, Dr. Betty concludes with a smile.