Mothers in South Sudan’s War-Torn Bentiu Town Regain Access to Maternal Care
South Sudan, 8 March 2016 – Maternal health care services are now available in South Sudan’s Bentiu town for the first time in nearly two years with the opening of an IOM maternity ward at the Bentiu Hospital on 29th February.
At the maternity ward, IOM midwives provide mothers with antenatal and postnatal care, facility-based deliveries, family planning support and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The Bentiu Hospital, once a prized medical facility, witnessed some of the most gruesome fighting during the two-year civil war. Armed conflict in early 2014 left much of the clinic destroyed—the maternity ward was ransacked and critical infrastructure, such as delivery chairs and incubation units, was damaged.
As the population increases in Bentiu town, IOM, health partners and the Bentiu Ministry of Health have identified a need for maternity and neonatal care services, with nearly 22,700 people registering for assistance in Bentiu town and surrounding areas since July 2015.
In the coming weeks, IOM plans to assume responsibility for a mobile clinic on the hospital grounds, currently managed by the International Rescue Committee, as the larger facility undergoes rehabilitation.
“IOM is committed to helping reestablish essential health care services at the hospital. Access to maternal and neonatal care is critical to the welfare of mothers and babies, especially those who are displaced or living in unpredictable environments,” said Dr. Beldina Gikundi, IOM Migration Health Officer in Bentiu.
With support from the UN Population Fund and the UN World Health Organization, IOM has equipped the maternity ward with furniture, equipment and medical supplies. The State Minister of Health has indicated plans to assign additional midwives to enable the ward to run 24-hours a day.
IOM has also extended its tuberculosis (TB) testing and treatment programme to Bentiu hospital to help with early diagnosis and treatment of TB cases for people who cannot access health services at the nearby UN protection of civilians (PoC) site, where IOM recently opened a TB testing laboratory.
Beyond Bentiu, IOM health teams provide primary and maternal health care assistance at the UN PoC site in Malakal and in Renk County, near the border with Sudan. Efforts in Malakal have been particularly challenging since IOM’s clinics, including a brand-new maternity ward, were burned to the ground during an attack on the PoC site on 17 and 18 February 2016.
Since December 2013, the civil war in South Sudan has displaced more than 2.3 million people. The UN estimates that 6.1 million South Sudanese will be in need of assistance this year as living conditions and security deteriorate in flashpoint areas across the country.
IOM health efforts in Bentiu town are made possible by support from the Government of Japan and the Common Humanitarian Fund.