Many women in remote areas of South Sudan are still at risk of losing their lives or babies due to home delivery caused by either no access to health facilities or lack of awareness or information.
Jiavana Charles, 27-year old mother of five and a resident of Tindoka village confides, “It was by the grace of God that my first four children are alive.”
With no knowledge of safe deliveries at the health facilities, women like her have no option but to seek the help of a traditional birth attendant.
Jiavana narrates, “Whenever a woman is due to deliver, the attendant is called who often use old and unsanitized razor blades to cut the baby’s umbilical cord. Most of the time, this causes infection that can lead to death.
“I gave birth to my four children at home under the care of an attendant. My placenta remained inside after delivery of my second child, the attendant had to pull it out by hand. I almost died. I could not walk for two weeks”, Jiavana shares.
In a culture such as South Sudan’s where men are dominant over women, getting the women involved in decision making for community development is a challenge.
At the beginning of World Vision’s health project supported by the Health Pooled Fund, men made most decisions, and women’s views were ignored. Upon the adoption of gender equity and social inclusion in the program, there was increase in women’s participation and leadership.
“It is the women who understand the needs of fellow women. We advocated for the health clinic to be installed with lighting for delivery at night to be safe. World Vision installed the solar panels and now mothers can deliver safely”, says Josephine Badista, a mother of five and the vice-chair of the Tindoka village health committee.
Strong women leaders like Josephine in the community supporting and advocating for women’s well-being, a mother will no longer lose her child or endanger her life.
Josephine says, “I lost three of my children due to lack of information and home delivery. I would have been a mother of eight by now. We did not have committees such as this to support us and raise awareness on maternal and child health.”
The behaviour change campaigns were done through radio programs, community dialogues, discussion at meetings on gender equality, and having women in health facility management committees.
Josephine said there was health facility in the community but people still patronized traditional birth attendants. “When we started two years ago, we held three general community meetings to educate people of the importance of delivery in hospitals as well as antenatal and early childhood vaccinations”, she adds.
Josephine champions the causes of women. She says, “As we raised awareness, the women opened up and started to deliver in the hospital.”
Christine Luzina, World Vision’s midwife in Tindoka Primary Health Care Unit says, “From January 2020 to August 2021, I helped 346 mothers deliver in the facility showing that our effort to empower women is working.”
“We make sure the facility is well equipped and clean. If there are some concerns we report them to World Vision”, Christina says. World Vision, in partnership with the Western Equatoria State Ministry of Health, has trained 100 skilled birth attendants to conduct safe deliveries at facilities in Yambio.
“I did not feel the pain I suffered before when I did at home. After the delivery, I was provided with a towel, carpet, bag, mosquito net, and soap for the baby”, Jiavana recalls.
She adds, “The attendants would ask for soap, money, and chicken as payment for their service. Many women thought the hospital service is even more expensive.”
Rosetta Emmanuel, a 24-year old mother of three recalls, “Apart from my firstborn, I gave birth to my two children in the hospital. I am thankful I learned in time saving my children’s lives. My mother lost four children. I always feared I will suffer the same. I now understand why she lost them.”
“Strong women leaders like Josephine in the community supporting and advocating for women’s well-being, a mother will no longer lose her child or endanger her life”, Rosetta happily says.
Cover photo: Josephine visits 27-year old Jiavana who is anticipating her child's birth.
Story and photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Coordinator