USAID, UNICEF, and the United Kingdom Recommit to Preventing Child and Maternal Deaths in South Sudan

23 March 2023
A mother hold her baby at nutrition center.
UNICEF South Sudan/ Mark Naftalin

The U.S. Government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), The United Kingdom, and UNICEF today mark the tenth anniversary of the Child Survival Call to Action, a groundbreaking event that catalyzed a global movement to dramatically improve maternal and child survival. 

In South Sudan, the maternal mortality rate remains one of the world’s highest at more than 1,150 deaths per 100,000 live births (due mostly to infection, hemorrhage, and obstructed labor). A low perception of risk regarding childbirth and social norms prevents many mothers in South Sudan from using skilled birth attendants, giving birth at a health facility, or seeking antenatal care. 

Yet USAID, UNICEF, and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) have helped drive progress in South Sudan over the past decade. From 2011 to 2020, mothers who delivered babies in a health facility increased from 16.2 percent to 41.8 percent, and mothers who delivered in the presence of skilled health personnel increased from 22.1 percent to 39.8 percent. 

"Yet unfortunately, the situation for mothers and children in South Sudan does not reflect positive global trends and the situation in this country remains exceptionally dire for women and girls,” said USAID Mission Director for South Sudan Kate Crawford. 

"The best predictor of a family's health is the health and education of the mother.  The persistent low levels of female literacy, the high rates of gender-based violence, and the lack of access to quality health care continue to harm women, their children, and their communities. This country will never reach its full potential without realizing the potential of half its population,” she added.

Mothers who had at least one antenatal care visit during their last pregnancy rose from 44.6 percent in 2011 to 79.8 percent in 2020, surpassing the National Health Sector Strategic Plan goal of 60 percent.  Postnatal care has also steadily increased, from 9 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2020.

“Over the last ten years the UK has supported the Government of South Sudan to provide critical health services to women and children across South Sudan,” said Andre Koelln, Humanitarian and Development Director, UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. 

“Every mother and child deserves the chance to survive and thrive. This requires the Government of South Sudan to strengthen the backbone of the health system, putting mothers and children at the heart of its vision for a healthier and more prosperous South Sudan,” he said. 

USAID, UNICEF, and FCDO have also increased the number of women in South Sudan provided with life-saving medications during labor to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. 

“Ten years on from this important call to action for maternal, newborn and child health, we are still witnessing extremely worrying rates of mortality for mothers and babies in South Sudan,” said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF Representative South Sudan.

“This is a key moment to reinvigorate commitments and funding from Government and health sector partners as well as emphasize the momentum towards the integrated approach focusing beyond clinical care to nutrition, water sanitation and hygiene, gender-based violence, and women’s education and empowerment.”


For more information, see:   Preventing Child and Maternal Deaths: A Framework for Action in Changing World, which chronicles the progress made across 25 countries since 2012 and lays out an action plan to measurably improve health outcomes for women and children.



Media contacts

James Maiden
Chief of Communication
Tel: +211912162888
Richard Ruati
Communication Specialist
UNICEF South Sudan
Tel: +211 92 13 9578


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