August 26, 2010 – UNICEF joins hands with Kuku community to strengthen referral services for pregnant mothers
By Swangin Bismarck
Juba, South Sudan. To reduce the number of mothers dying during pregnancy or at child birth, the Kuku Community in Kajo-keji County, in collaboration with the UNICEF National Committee of Ireland have procured an ambulance for Kajo-keji Hospital in Southern Sudan.
Receiving the ambulance at the UNICEF offices in Southern Sudan’s regional capital, Juba, Evans Kijore, a member of the Kuku Community Ambulance Task Force said: “This ambulance gives us the ability to respond quickly to emergencies related to pregnancies and child illnesses. Without the ambulance, pregnant mothers and their unborn children would be at even greater riskWithout the ambulance, pregnant mothers and their unborn children would be at even greater risk.”
A woman in Southern Sudan has a one in six chance of dying during her lifetime from complications during pregnancy or childbirth - one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
“This ambulance will be a tremendous asset for the community – it will help health care workers better respond to medical emergencies, including complicated pregnancies, and reduce maternal and child mortalities,” said Yasmin Haque, Director of Operations for UNICEF Southern Sudan Area Programme.
Prolonged obstructed labour, severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure, and convulsions, and complications related to unsafe abortions are all major causes of maternal death, with newborns often dying from infection, low birth weight, or suffocation during birth.
The 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey found that only 25 percent of the population had access to adequate health services, and over 80 percent of pregnant women give birth at home under the supervision of traditional birth attendants or village midwives.
The majority of maternal deaths occur at home or in primary health facilities and one of the contributing factors is poor referral system from home to health facilities and from primary health care facilities to secondary health care facilities.
In Southern Sudan even basic infrastructure remains poor, and the roads in Kajo-keji are no exception.
A further complication is that many women in Southern Sudan become pregnant at a young age, when complications in pregnancy are common.
Considering the high rates of deaths of pregnant mothers due to related complications, members of the Kuku community including a significant number of those living in the diaspora initiated the purchase of the ambulance and voluntarily contributed in different amounts over a one year and a half period to a tune of about US$ 20,000.
Due to the high cost of the ambulance (US$ 72,463), members of the Kuku community in Ireland contacted the UNICEF National Community of Ireland who stepped in to support the community’s efforts and commitment.
The ambulance will be used to provide transport to and from the community hospital as well as between health centres and the hospital, providing communities with the means to take advantage of distant health care services.
An effective referral system using the ambulance will ensure a timely responds to complicated cases of pregnancy hence saving lives of the mothers and the unborn child.
“UNICEF is thrilled with the dedication and efforts of the community to address the issue of maternal and child health. Their commitment and UNICEF’s support demonstrates that working together, we can effectively confront issues affecting children and women,” said Dr. Haque.
Kajo-keji Hospital will now provide the running costs for the ambulance, including maintenance and incentives for its driver.
The vehicle is a four-wheel Toyota Land Cruiser hardtop transformed into an ambulance with state-of-the-art mobile medical facilities such as first aid box, a bed for the patient and oxygen mask holders among others.