David Thomson, Director of Policy and Programmes at World Vision UK, blogs from South Sudan. The country was formed last summer, splitting from North Sudan following a peace deal and referendum.
Life is so very fragile in South Sudan
Today I travelled East out of Kuajok Town across the dry bed of the River Juer to visit two Primary Health Care Units in Ajieb. The river is still dry even though the rains have started. Soon the river will fill up and the World Vision staff will not be able to cross this way. Rather than a one hour journey, it will be six hours. But more importantly, the next level of health care for pregnant women is even further from reach. This is why these health care units are so vital.
Rose, one of only two trained Community Midwives in Warrap State explained how critical the work was in building the capacity of local birth attendants. The birth attendants, attached to the Primary Health Care Units, serve 16,000 women of child bearing age through building home based life saving skills. This means that complications in pregnancy can be identified early and women referred to the units.
Anger Deng, her first baby due anytime in the coming days, walked 2.5 hours to reach the PHCU afraid of the pains she was having. Abuk Mamer, a mother of 8, walked 2 hours to get her 6 monthly check up. Their clear and simple demand of World Vision was to have qualified staff to care for them. They know that at the moment the Government of South Sudan do not have the capacity to run these life saving health units. The State Minister of Health, Dr Solomon Angui, knows what needs to be done but with the national austerity measures in place can barely cover the salaries of his state health department.
Hanging in the balance
On 13th May Aleut Ngong gave birth to her third child, Aguek Akol. She was 16 when she had her first child. Today she walked 3 miles back to the health unit, scared because ten-day-old Aguek was struggling to breath.
Aguek was diagnosed with severe pneumonia. The Health Unit was able to give amoxicillin but knew he would die soon if he did not get more care at the Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC). The staff at the health unit were trying to organise a bicycle to give them a lift more than ten miles across the river to the PHCC. Thankfully World Vision was able to organise better transport and Aguek was admitted one hour later to get the care he so desperately needed. I hope and pray that he was not too late.
Life is so fragile in South Sudan. Lives literally hang in the balance that most of the time do not seem to tip in favour of the most vulnerable children but these clinics bring hope to thousands of mothers in Ajeib.