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South Sudan calls for increased advocacy on maternal health care

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December 4, 2011 (JUBA) - South Sudan on Sunday called on activists and community groups to focus more on giving messages about maternal health care, which is a major challenge in the new nation.

Maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the world with 2,054 mothers out 100,000 dying during labour in South Sudan, according to figures from the ministry of health.

Health care during pregnancy is free in South Sudan but there are less than 100 midwives for the entire country, which has a population of over 8 million.

Janet Michael, director of nursing and midwifery with the ministry of health, said Sunday that her ministry wanted to encourage Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights groups to include health care messages in all their activities.

Specifically she asked that they help the government educate men and women about when to seek medical advice, not to delay reaching proper medical facilities and accessing quality care.

These "three delays determine life or death for a woman experiencing complications in child birth”, she said.

"Most people aren’t even aware about how to identify complications. Men as heads of households aren’t aware of the importance of seeking care so long as the woman is on her feet."

A three day workshop was held over the weekend in Juba on "Improving Maternal Health in South Sudan” to try and address the issue.

Patrick Tom Umboya, a consultant at the ministry of health speaking at the closing session pointed out that maternal and under five mortality remain public health concerns in Sub-Sahara Africa as a whole and not just South Sudan.

For South Sudan and the region as a whole to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 and 5 under five mortality and maternal mortality will have to drop significantly.

The health official cited negative practices such as access to services, hemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, obstructed labour and some unsafe abortion as some of the causes of maternal mortality.

"With regards to socio-economic barriers it is not only the attitude of the health care service provider but the education of the woman, her level of empowerment and access to sanitation" that effects the chances of her and her child surviving pregnancy and the first few years of life.

"Also, NGO efforts seem ad hoc as sometimes you can’t point put what is being done. Antenatal care and supervised delivery are critical to minimizing the risk associated with maternal health.”

He lauded efforts by government to ensure universal access to health care, especially the introduction of a policy to provide free comprehensive free maternal health care (antenatal, delivery and post natal care).

Measures are being taken, he said, to improve geographical access are the Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) program, Community-Based Health Planning Services (CHPS), expansion of midwifery training and expansion of health facilities.

(ST)

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