Nutrition and health services integration is helping children in remote parts of South Sudan
UNICEF and partner ForAfriKa work to tackle high rates of common illnesses and malnutrition in children and mothers in Boma County, South Sudan
In a small blue shed, amongst lush bush in remote eastern South Sudan – a primary care center is providing crucial healthcare and nutrition services to over 3,000 people from the Jie tribe population.
Boma County is one of the most remote places in South Sudan and the area is susceptible to high rates of common illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition – illnesses that particularly affect children.
UNICEF’s health partner ForAfrika established the center years ago to tackle such health issues, but recently, progress has been made to integrate nutrition services together with other health services to treat and prevent malnutrition in children and mothers. The facility which receives an average of 15 patients per day is run by six healthcare workers and four nutrition professionals who work tirelessly to improve the health outcomes of the local population.
For Angelina Nakachiiipio - a 26-year-old mother, the facility has been instrumental for her and her child Lonyia Lonyango since he was born two yours ago.
When I was pregnant, I received nutrition supplements and I believed those services helped me reach where I am today. After delivering my baby, I didn’t have enough blood, but the services offered at the center here, plus proper feeding advised by doctors helped me gain my blood back and I am now healthy.
She added that the center also later helped her baby access medication after an intense illness.
“My baby was so sick. I didn’t know what he was going through. This sickness lasted for one week, and it became bad in the second week. I rushed him to the facility where the doctor told me he had malaria and was malnourished too."
“I became so worried but got the medication instantly. Without these services, my baby’s health would have been very bad, and I am not sure whether he could have survived. I am glad since his discharge; he hasn’t gotten sick again,” said Angelina.
Meanwhile Mary Niet, a young mother of an 8-month-old Lokaraba Abraham also revealed that without the existence of the center, she wasn’t sure of her baby’s survival.
“My baby had diarrhea and a cough. His situation before I brought him to the center was worrying. The child was so dehydrated. I felt so helpless that I couldn’t support him."
After consultation from my community healthcare worker, I was asked to rush the baby to the Naoyapuro site. When I reached there, the worker screened the baby and got immediate medication for some days for which he became well, and I was so happy.
Abraham Manso is a nurse who oversees Naoyapuro Nutrition Site as the team leader. Born in Naoyapuro and later raised in Kenya, Abraham revealed that he returned home after completing his studies to come and serve the community.
“What inspired me to come back to my Jie community is the desire to serve the people. Since I got this job, I am happy simply because I am helping the community, especially children and women, and also helping myself and my family meet their basic living needs."
Without this facility serving this community, many people would face health challenges. On the side of nutrition, many children are malnourished, and the provision of therapeutic foods is saving many infants.
For Martha Tayla - a mother of two, witnessing her second baby child [Lorow John] with chickenpox after birth was a surprise and very disturbing for her.
“Three months ago, my baby was delivered with chickenpox. The baby was always crying and having fever and rashes on his body. After some days when things weren’t changing, I had to bring him here, and the baby was referred to Boma Hospital because his health was worsening.
When we reached there, I was well received and the baby was admitted and treated for weeks. When he got well, I became happy after I saw my baby smiling again and healthy, which led to our discharge.
Disease and malnutrition are on the rise in South Sudan. In 2023 1.4 million children will suffer acute malnutrition. By integrating nutrition services into healthcare centers, mothers can more easily receive the full package of screening, treatment and also prevention services required to keep their children healthy.
Across South Sudan, 697 health centers have been integrated with nutrition services.
Naoyapuro site is one of these where the added benefits of the integrated services are felt by mothers and children. Mothers have a one-stop center and no longer need to travel, often long distances to receive separate treatment care for medical services and malnutrition.
Betty Anying - ForAfrika Nutrition and Clinical Officer, who oversees the operation of Naoyapuro Nutrition Site described the establishment of the integrated center as a game-changer, adding that the facility is adding a positive change in the lives of people.
“Before the establishment of the Naoyapuro nutrition and health center, we did an assessment, and it was documented that a lot of children and people needed both health and nutrition services. That is what inspired ForAfrika and previous partners to initiate the establishment of the point,” she said.
Since then, the communities are happy because they are getting the required services together and in a timelier way. This area without the site would be a disaster because of its inaccessibility. The fact that we can save the lives of children or mothers with proper referral systems is a win for us health partners.
Naoyapuro Nutrition Site is among many nutrition and health centers across Pibor Administrative Area supported by UNICEF under the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness (CERHSP) – a World Bank funded project aimed at strengthening the response to COVID-19 while consolidating health service delivery for the refugee and host communities.