A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families

by International Medical Corps
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
A Healthier Future for South Sudan's Families
Raising GBV awareness - Photo by Patrick Meinhardt
Raising GBV awareness - Photo by Patrick Meinhardt

Violence against women and girls is endemic in South Sudan, exacerbated by ongoing conflict and chronic displacement. This is why gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response remains at the core of International Medical Corps’ assistance in the country. We tailor our programs to support and empower women and girls who are affected by and at risk of violence and other abuse, especially those facing conflict, disasters and displacement. Our approach addresses the root causes of violence and helps put communities on the right path toward gender equality.

Our team in South Sudan carry out a range of GBV programs including hosting awareness sessions and Women- and Girl-Friendly Spaces (WGFS) where our team organizes activities such as sewing, beading, literacy and math classes. In addition, we have been able to give some women modest grants to set up their own businesses, making them more independent—an important first step to breaking the cycle of poverty that leaves women and girls susceptible to perpetrators who prey on their vulnerability.

In Malakal, a small business grant helped Nyabach develop her food stall. “Before International Medical Corps came, I was cooking and selling mandazis [a type of fried bread]—but I wasn’t making any profits,” says Nyabach. “Now, thanks to the loan they provided, I was able to expand my business and add more to the menu, which allowed me to make a profit.”

Our team also supports women’s groups such as “Success,” a financial cooperative that enables participants to pool resources. Formed in 2019, each of its 26 members contribute 200 South Sudanese pounds per month, which can be withdrawn for personal projects and returned at a later date with a small amount of interest.

Our approach encourages men to be a part of the change. For example, Charles, a community leader, helps our team challenge and prevent GBV by mobilizing men in his community. “Domestic violence is a big problem in our community,” he explains. “It is important to involve men in gender-based violence activities because men are the perpetrators and need to be part of the solution.” 

By hosting awareness sessions, our team works with community leaders to shed light on issues related to GBV prevention. “Domestic violence is a huge problem,” admits Batista. “Men drink too much and they beat their wives at home. Before, many men were not aware of GBV, but thanks to International Medical Corps, we can now talk to men and raise awareness in our community,” he explains. Working alongside our GBV team, community leaders like Charles and Batista use their standing to convey an essential message: there is no place for violence against women and girls in their communities.

Thanks to the continued support of the GlobalGiving community, our team in South Sudan is empowering women and mobilizing men to help eliminate gender-based violence. 

Nyabach's food stall - Photo by Patrick Meinhardt
Nyabach's food stall - Photo by Patrick Meinhardt
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Students at Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery
Students at Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery

Since 2012, International Medical Corps has operated three nursing and midwifery schools, or Health Science Institutes, including Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery, Wau Health Sciences Institutes and Kajo Keji Health Sciences Institutes, graduating 523 midwives and 159 registered nurses.

Students trained by International Medical Corps, like Samuel, Bona, and Harriet, are eager to offer maternal and child healthcare services and mentor aspiring health practitioners in their communities. By sharing their knowledge and experience, they can help build capacity and increase healthcare access throughout the country.

Samuel is 25 years old and in his final year of the three-year midwifery program at Kajo-Keji Health Science School. “I grew up seeing how expectant mothers suffered while giving birth. Some even died in the arms of unskilled midwives. I chose this course so I can help save lives,” he explains. After he graduates, Samuel’s skills will address maternal and child health care needs in Kajo-Keji county and South Sudan in general.

“I feel so good about this training,” he says. “With the skills I’ve acquired, I can now provide safe delivery to expectant mothers, manage complications during pregnancies and offer counseling services. Thanks to the support of International Medical Corps, I will be able to help my community.”

Bona, a third-year nursing student at Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery, opted for this course because of the limited number of skilled nurses in the country. “I witnessed a person bleeding to death due to gunshot wounds,” Bona explains. “No nurses were there to attend to him. That incident stuck in my mind and I chose this course so I could help save lives.”

The 30-year-old father of three began the course in 2017, and hopes to graduate next year. Through the training courses, he has acquired skills in nursing care, ward management, computers and other areas crucial for his career. Upon graduation, he plans to go back to his community to treat patients and teach at the state’s health institute, sharing his nursing skills and knowledge with other aspiring health students in his community.

Harriet is one of the women studying midwifery at Kajo-Keji Health Science School. The 28-year-old began the three-year course in 2017 and hopes to graduate next year. As a child, Harriet dreamed of becoming a midwife and helping save the lives of pregnant women.

“I had a close relative who died while giving birth to a child, so I grew up with the intention of becoming a midwife, to support expectant mothers and help deliver their children safely,” she says. Harriet is proud of the skills she has learned thus far. “I can now identify critical complications in expectant mothers, act swiftly and conduct safe deliveries, and my communication skills have greatly improved.”

Thanks to the GlobalGiving community and other generous donors, International Medical Corps continues to increase access to healthcare by building the capacity of South Sudan’s health system through training programs that target health professionals and key community members. 

Samuel reviews his notes in a lecture theater
Samuel reviews his notes in a lecture theater
Harriet studying for her midwifery courses
Harriet studying for her midwifery courses
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Emmanuel with Dr. Joseph one year after surgery
Emmanuel with Dr. Joseph one year after surgery

In May 2019, Emmanuel, aged 4, was brought by his mother to the International Medical Corps-supported health facility at the Malakal Teaching Hospital in South Sudan. Emmanuel suffered from a rare abdominal condition—his liver was outside his abdominal cavity, protected only by his skin, and a corresponding mass had formed on his umbilical region.

Emmanuel’s mother, 29-year-old Lucia, had traveled to several different local health facilities seeking help. Each one referred her to a larger hospital.

“When I took Emmanuel to the other health facilities, I was advised to take him to either Khartoum or Nairobi, but I could not afford the trip,” she explains. “Meanwhile, the mass was growing and my child was getting sick, weak and could not play with other children.”

A single mother of two, Lucia lives with her children at her parents’ home in Malakal. She has no stable income to provide for her family, and relies on humanitarian assistance to make ends meet.

When news of Emmanuel’s ailment reached International Medical Corps, our medical personnel visited the home and listened to Lucia’s touching story of her son’s plight. They immediately recommended that she take Emmanuel to our health facility for treatment.

After International Medical Corps surgeon Dr. Joseph examined Emmanuel, he and a dedicated medical team performed a successful surgery on the boy’s abdomen. The procedure consisted of separating the liver from the abdominal skin, opening the abdominal cavity and placing the liver within it. “We were surprised that the mass corresponded to the abnormal location of the liver,” says Dr. Joseph.

Emmanuel responded well to treatment after the surgery and was discharged from the hospital after 15 days. One year later, Emmanuel had fully recovered and returned to the hospital for his final follow-up appointment.

“Emmanuel’s grandparents and I are so happy and thankful for what International Medical Corps has done for my child,” says Lucia. “You saved my son’s life and we didn’t have to travel abroad to seek better care, a cost that I couldn't have managed.”

International Medical Corps provides comprehensive, integrated primary and secondary healthcare services at the protection-of-civilians site in Malakal. The facility includes an operating theatre for emergency surgeries that is the only functional surgical center for obstetrical and emergency cases in Upper Nile state. Patients from across the region come there for treatment.

Emmanuel waits to be examined at the hospital
Emmanuel waits to be examined at the hospital
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International Medical Corps' Dr. Joshua
International Medical Corps' Dr. Joshua

Being a doctor in South Sudan—a conflict-ridden, chronically insecure, abysmally poor country—is one of the most daunting professions on earth. Dr. Joshua, a South Sudanese medical professional in charge of International Medical Corps’ health facility in Juba’s “protection of civilians” camp, has faced many challenges over the past four-and-a-half years. When asked about the circumstances that he and his colleagues face on a daily basis, he says, with surprising lightheartedness, “We manage.” Then in May, Dr. Joshua encountered a new challenge: he contracted COVID-19.

He still does not know how he got it. As soon as reports started coming in about the pandemic, International Medical Corps took protective measures to ensure the safety of our staff around the world. He assumes he contracted the virus from a civilian who traveled to the market, where the first COVID-19 cases started appearing in early April.

In early May, Dr. Joshua came down with a severe headache. At first, this didn’t seem unusual—he sometimes gets headaches after long, stressful days. But he couldn’t sleep this one off. So he called his colleague and he told him to put on personal protective equipment (PPE) and come over to take a sample. When the test came back positive two days later, Dr. Joshua’s biggest worry was not his own health, but whether he would transmit the virus to others—particularly his patients with chronic illnesses.

By May 11, Dr. Joshua had developed a cough, high fever and chills, and our South Sudan team prepared an ambulance to take him to the COVID-19 treatment center. “During treatment, I wasn’t scared because there were a lot of people who took care of me and came and checked on me often,” he says. “I got a lot of support from my International Medical Corps colleagues in South Sudan and around the world, and lots of phone calls from my relatives and friends.”

Dr. Joshua could not be discharged until he had two consecutive negative test results, which finally happened on June 14—more than a month after the ambulance came to get him. He went back to work the very next day. “Coming back to work was very right,” he says. “I had a lot of welcoming from colleagues and the community, who told me how valuable I was to them for taking care of them.”

Across South Sudan, the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing every day, but health facilities have not yet been overwhelmed, as many people are choosing to stay home to heal, according to Dr. Joshua. International Medical Corps, which expanded the Juba Infectious Disease Unit in May and set up the country’s first and only intensive-care unit, remains vigilant to the pandemic’s threat and is prepared to respond rapidly.

Dr. Joshua remains positive and grateful. “I would like to send my gratitude to everyone who was concerned for my health from International Medical Corps, the Juba community and my colleagues who have been with me over my entire career,” he says. “I am very healthy and happy now.”

Thanks to the generous support of the GlobalGiving community, International Medical Corps continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in South Sudan.

Healthcare workers in South Sudan wearing PPE
Healthcare workers in South Sudan wearing PPE
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The 26-year old mother with her twins.
The 26-year old mother with her twins.

South Sudan has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. One in every 50 live births results in the death of the mother; with the high fertility rate, this means that each mother has a one-in-seven chance of dying in childbirth in her lifetime.

In an effort to improve the health of women and children, International Medical Corps has constructed facilities to support mothers and their babies with, among other things, antenatal and postnatal care, assisted deliveries, family planning (including proper birth spacing) as well as emergency obstetric care.

In January 2020, a 26-year-old woman arrived at a small clinic operated by International Medical Corps outside of Malakal, which is the capital of Upper Nile state in South Sudan.

The woman was already in labor when she arrived and the first baby was delivered shortly thereafter. However, as the medical team examined her, they discovered that the woman was actually pregnant with heterozygous twins, a rare condition where there are two placentas instead of one. To safely deliver the second baby, the mother needed to have surgery, something that was not possible at this first clinic.

To reach the clinic that could safely perform the surgery, they needed to urgently find a boat to cross the swamp located between the two clinics. As there were no boats available, International Medical Corps’ staff had to carry the woman to the second, larger clinic to save the life of the mother and baby. The area where these two clinics are located is in an extremely remote area of South Sudan — one with no roads or other means of transportation.

Thankfully, our team reached the clinic in time and an emergency cesarean section was performed. This surgery saved both the baby’s and the mother’s lives. By this time, the woman had been in labor for several days.

We thank the GlobalGiving community of donors for continuing to support maternal and child health in South Sudan.

The swamp where the team carried the laboring mom.
The swamp where the team carried the laboring mom.
Another view of the swamp between the clinics.
Another view of the swamp between the clinics.
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International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Kimberly Laney
Los Angeles, CA United States
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