Tacklig HIV related maternal mortality in South Sudan

The Alliance is expanding its programming in South Sudan to reduce HIV related maternal mortality. The project, funded by UKAID for the Department for International Development (DFID), started in October 2010 and focuses on social mobilisation, advocacy and enabling HIV positive women and their families to access effective health services*.

Despite the remarkable progress made in South Sudan since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, there remain great challenges to development as the country continues to be affected by lack of infrastructure and limited capacity.

The Alliance began working in South Sudan in 2005 and in 2009 Alliance South Sudan signed a memorandum of understanding with the Southern Sudan AIDS Commission (SSAC) to be the lead agency in strengthening civil society in the response to HIV. Alliance South Sudan now supports 90 community based organisations across 18 counties in four of Southern Sudan's 10 states.

High maternal mortality ratio

Official data estimates maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in Southern Sudan to be at 1700 deaths per 100,000 live births (in the UK it is 8.2). This is the fifth highest MMR globally after Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Malawi and Angola. High levels of maternal mortality are linked to poor access to quality reproductive health services, including family planning.

The DFID maternal mortality programme is being implemented by Alliance South Sudan and a new National Partnership Platform (a civil society network of independent NGOs, networks and CBOs all working in the area of HIV and AIDS, and TB) will share information, collaborate and implement joint advocacy agendas around key issues.

"Lack of basic equipment and skills"

Florence Bayao, Country Director for Alliance South Sudan explains why the programme is so important:

"A baseline study conducted as part of this DFID project has highlighted the low utilization of reproductive health services in South Sudan. Many health facilities lack basic equipment and most of the maternal and neonatal health workers (mainly village midwives and traditional birth attendants) lack the necessary skills to perform simple life saving and nursing procedures (over 80% of deliveries are taking place at home).

"In addition, in South Sudan traditionally arranged marriage during childhood is common and the report highlights the high teenage birth rate (among 15-19 year olds) is estimated at 200 per 1000."

Advocacy and national policy

The DFID project aims to raise awareness of the links between HIV and maternal mortality, and advocate for the development of national policies that establish community referral pathways for HIV positive women and their families.

Going forward, the National Partnership Platform will undertake a range of advocacy activities including quarterly meetings for partners to come together to discuss, debate and agree on key advocacy issues and share knowledge. Campaigns will then be conducted through electronic and community dialogues, engagement with policy-makers, and the first hand documentation of the experiences of communities by Key Correspondents. The project is due to end in September 2011.

* The DFID MNCH project focuses on four countries in Africa: South Sudan, Kenya, Zambia and Uganda.