Islamic Relief is improving maternal healthcare in South Sudan, one of the world’s most dangerous countries in which to give birth.

Childbirth is never without its risks, but for expectant mothers in South Sudan, having a baby is particularly perilous.

For every 100,000 babies born alive in South Sudan, 789 women will die giving birth. Less than 30% of women have access to a skilled health worker and only about one in five childbirths involve a skilled birth attendant, according to government authorities.

The Lopua primary healthcare unit in Primary Healthcare Unit, which helps women to give birth.

Women rarely given the choice to access medical care

Narah, a mother of six, lives in rural South Sudan where men often make the decisions about where their wife gives birth. Some consider complications in pregnancy to be a sign that another man has fathered the child, prompting the husband to seek out the alleged father.

Delaying medical treatment puts both mother and baby at risk – as do views typically held by men that childbirth in a heath facility is best avoided.

In addition, conflict in the country has devastated the healthcare sector. Health facilities have been destroyed and health workers attacked. Drugs and skilled professionals are in short supply.

Just 22% of health facilities are thought to be fully operational.

To get medical help, Narah faced a 40 kilometre trek to the nearest hospital so she had no choice but to give birth at home.

“I gave birth in a village called Korkit, where I lost a child who was to be my first born,” explains Narah.

Giving birth to her second child in her tukul (hut) left her in agony and fighting for her life before she successfully delivered the baby.

Narah enters the tukul in which she gave birth to two of her children.

But then, in 2017, Islamic Relief built a primary healthcare unit in Kapoeta. Constructed with the support of the DEC, it has helped many women like Narah give birth safely.

“Islamic Relief’s unit is lifesaving. Islamic Relief staff helped me give birth to my fifth child: they assisted me during delivery and removing the placenta. And they provided cleaning materials, bed sheets and food.”

Islamic Relief’s lifesaving programmes

Islamic Relief began humanitarian operations in South Sudan in 2003, before the country gained independence from Sudan. With your support, we provide lifesaving aid and development programmes for vulnerable people like Narah.

Support our vital humanitarian work: Donate now.

*Main photo: a mother and child access Lopua primary healthcare unit in 2016