The maternal death rate in South Sudan is the worst in the world, but the shortage of midwives and medical care remains acute.
Data from the United Nations shows how 2,054 women die per 100,000 live births, prompting Mary Rose, the director for nurses and midwives, to urge for extra funding for midwives and technological equipment and drugs in health centres.
We have very few midwives and nurses and the 2015 Millennium Development Goals draw nigh.”
We have very few midwives and nurses and the 2015 Millennium Development Goals draw nigh,” added Rose, referring to eight global targets, including improving maternal health. Other targets on reducing infant mortality and reducing HIV/AIDS infection are also critical for South Sudan.
The UN estimates that the country has less than 100 community midwives serving a population of more than 8 million. There are just 10 registered midwives with a diploma.
The life-saving profession faces a number of hurdles. Training is inconsistent and meanwhile, the profession offers little social recognition, a meagre income and difficult working conditions.
There is an extreme earnings gap within the medical profession, according to the president for the midwives and nurses, Sake Jemelia. A grade -14 nurse earns a paltry monthly salary of 270 South Sudanese pounds (less than 100USD) while a grade -9 pockets up to 1,400 SSP per month.
Sake Jemelia, who also teaches at Juba’s teaching hospital said the country largely relies on traditional birth attendants who deal with less complicated cases but cannot solve serious problems.
With only 30 midwives and nurses currently training at the hospital, she said that qualified midwives from neighbouring countries should be brought in to fill the void.
The country largely relies on traditional birth attendants who deal with less complicated cases but cannot solve serious problems.
Juba teaching hospital is the country’s only referral hospital and handles around 450 to 500 labour cases per day and 30 to 45 cases of women requiring a caesarian section, according to the president of nurses and midwives.
Augustino Ting, a statistician at the Sudd Institute, a policy think tank in Juba, told The Niles that the lack of a budget is a key problem.
He cited the average allocation of 68 million SSP since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). In the current fiscal year, a total 285 million has been targeted at health, representing 3 percent of the total budget compared to defence’s 2.8 billion SSP, which forms 28 percent of total budget.
Analysts say the government should increase the health budget up to 10 percent.
Last year’s oil shutdown and the austerity budget has caused an additional blow to the country’s fragile health service.
The UNFPA has provided funds to support diploma courses for nurses and midwives in Kajo Keji, Maridi and other areas, part of a combined effort with authorities to arrest the run-away number of maternal deaths in the country.