The chances of survival for children and women in South Sudan are today better than before. Significant reductions in child mortality and improvements in nutrition, immunization and access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation since 2006 have given the promise of life to millions of vulnerable mothers, babies and children.However, the country remains one of the riskiest places in the world for women to get pregnant and children to be born. Two decades of conflict have destroyed the healthcare system and its ability to deliver quality services. The country is starting from a very low base and some child and maternal indicators are among the worst in the world.
Only 5.8 per cent of children aged 12–23 months are fully immunized, and default rates between the first and third doses of vaccines such as polio and diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) are as high at 50 per cent. Such large numbers of un-immunized children increase the risk of outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases, particularly measles and wild polio.
A third of children under five are stunted and a quarter underweight. Hunger is a daily reality for children in South Sudan where 1.2 million people faced severe food shortages in 2010.The country has the highest maternal mortality in the world, at 2,054 deaths out of 100,000 live births. On an average, 16 mothers die unnecessarily each day, due to pregnancy-related complications. There is a strong cultural preference for home births, and a mere 19 per cent of deliveries are assisted by a skilled health worker.
There are wide geographic and socio-economic disparities in health outcomes and access to healthcare. Statistics from the 2010 Sudan Household Health Survey highlight that urban populations are more likely to have increased access to health services compared to rural.
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