The birth of a new nation is rightly a time of hope and optimism. South Sudan, however, continues to face massive challenges and is still one of the riskiest places in the world for a child to be born.
One out of every nine children will die before their fifth birthday despite a decrease in under-five mortality in recent years. Sixteen young mothers die every day due to pregnancy related complications, which could be avoided by having skilled attendants at delivery.
These harsh statistics can change, and even simple interventions can make an enormous difference. The success of humanitarian and development programmes ultimately depends on the capacity and willingness of individuals and communities to adopt practices and behaviours that keep children safe, healthy and protected from harm.
Media and advocacy are other strategies to ensure the issues of children and women are given top priority in the national agenda. However, communication and engagement with communities on behaviour change is made more difficult by the limited channels of communication that exist in South Sudan. Information is largely delivered face-to-face by community and religious leaders, although radio is increasingly playing a role.
Changing people’s attitudes and behaviour requires a sustained programme of information and mobilization that, to be successful, must – at its heart – involve the community and individuals. This is being done through information-sharing activities that include mass media activities, social mobilisation, interpersonal communication, media advocacy, reports and publications, capacity-building workshops, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials and community dialogue and engagement.