The suffering that women went through during deliveries in her community gave Gune Joyce Evans sleepless nights. According to her, in every 10 deliveries at least five women would die. Sometimes, both the mother and child died. She had been witnessing the deaths happen to others but soon after, it happened to a person who was so dear to her.
“When I was young, one of my sisters had complications during her delivery. She had a prolonged labour with assistance of a traditional birth attendant (TBA). Unfortunately the baby died,” Joyce narrated in a sad tone and added, “The death of this baby really disturbed me. I kept imagining myself in her shoes.”
“The death of this baby really disturbed me. I kept imagining myself in her shoes.”
The question that lingered in Joyce’s mind was what she could do to save the mothers and babies in her community. The answer was conceived when she was approached by one of her friends in the village who was studying midwifery at Maridi Health Science Institute.
“She told me that this problem was not affecting my community only but the entire country. According to her, I would help my community if I were a trained midwife,” she said.
Joyce considered this the best advice ever! It would be a career ladder, which would help her earn a living as a professional midwife and become a lifesaver.
When the opportunity to apply to Maridi Health Science Institute came, she applied and was admitted to pursue a course in Midwifery.
“I found the course to be specific to saving mothers and children who die during deliveries. I also discovered that lack of antenatal check-ups and delivering in the hands of unskilled birth attendants laid foundation for maternal deaths,” she said.
The Joy of Saving Life
Joyce is now 32 years old and is already saving lives after being awarded a certificate in Midwifery last year.
“Here at Maridi Hospital, I have conducted over 100 deliveries. I feel touched when a woman struggles to give life. However, nothing gives me more joy at work than the smile of a mother breastfeeding her baby for the first time."
“Here at Maridi Hospital, I have conducted over 100 deliveries. I feel touched when a woman struggles to give life. However, nothing gives me more joy at work than the smile of a mother breastfeeding her baby for the first time,” Joyce narrated.
She is already furthering her studies at Maridi Health Science Institute pursuing a Diploma in Midwifery.
Human life is a priority for Joyce. She believes that a mother and her baby should live in spite of the long distance to the health centers.
“I can serve anywhere because this is our country. Saving lives in any part of this country is my business,” she said.
Glance at Maternal and Child Health
Globally, South Sudan has some of the worst health outcome indicators in spite of modest improvements over the few years. Maternal mortality ratio has stagnated at 2054 per 100 000. Mortality rate for infants and children under five years declined from 102 and 135 in 2006 to 75 and 104 in 2012 per 1000 live births respectively.
Amref Health Africa in South Sudan believes that the ugly statistics can be reversed. Maternal and child health is central in its programing Amref’s programing. Training of midwives is critical if women are to have safe deliveries, and lives saved.
Amref Health Africa in South Sudan, has trained about 75 percent of mid-level health professionals in South Sudan (of which about 30 percent are midwives) through support from the government, Maridi Health Science Institute and donors.
Stand Up For African Mothers campaign
In the strong belief that no woman should die giving life, Amref Health Africa launched the international Stand Up for African Mothers campaign in October 2011, to draw attention to the plight of African mothers and to mobilise citizens worldwide to ensure that mothers get the basic medical care they need during pregnancy and childbirth. No child should be left an orphan due to lack of health care for women.
The Stand Up for African Mothers campaign aims to train 15,000 midwives by December 2015 and contribute towards reduction of maternal deaths. Without basic medical care, maternal mortality remains a heavy burden in sub-Saharan Africa.
If trained, a single midwife can provide care to 500 women every year, including safe deliveries of 100 babies.