Residents of Gurei and its surrounding on Thursday witnessed the opening and handover of a new maternity ward at Gurei Primary Health Care Center in Juba.
The maternity complex which came as a result of a request by residents of Gurei was constructed through funding from the United States Agency for International Development, USAID.
The center is equipped with solar powered energy system that will supply the maternity ward with power.
It also has an overhead water tank that receives its power requirement from the solar energy.
It has a capacity to accommodate 6 beds, and will help mothers access medical assistance including consultation, delivery, and recovery.
The complex also has a water closet, office space and a verandah that serves as a waiting area for patients seeking the attention of midwives.
According to USAID, about fifty mothers and newborns can be reached daily with antenatal, delivery, recovery and post-natal services in the 24hours operations center.
A total of 108,000 was provided by the USAID to the UN Office of Project Services, UNOPS to construct the complex.
According to UNOPS Project Manager, John Nyirenda, the health center will help in reducing the number of maternal mortality cases in the area.
“We did this after the community asked [UNOPS] that they needed a separate maternity ward, and UNOPS asked the USAID for financial support. We think that the facility is going to improve the health service delivery and ensure that our mothers are not dying when they are giving life at this facility. Today we are happy we are handing over this facility to the community,” John Nyirenda said.
Mr. Nyirenda added that UNOPS and USAID are also partnering in the construction of other primary health facilities in the country.
Reports shows that South Sudan has some of the worst health indicators globally; maternal mortality rate stands at over 2,000 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
It is alarming as it further indicates that 25% of South Sudanese children die before their fifth birthday.
According to the World Health Organization, maternal mortality is worst in South Sudan due to limited access to health services due to conflict and the under-developed health infrastructure before and after independence.
It says critical health service delivery gaps exists coupled with famine that has affected counties in South Sudan, including; low quality and incomplete package of primary health care services, lack of an integral mental health component in nutrition programmes, medical management of severe and acute malnutrition, inadequate disease outbreak preparedness and response, and the challenging overall coordination of partners’ interventions.
In her remarks on Thursday, the USAID Health Office Director, Ms. Victoria Graham said the maternity ward will provide expectant mothers a place where they can receive safe and quality services from specialized services staffs.
“It is alarming that more women die in child birth in South Sudan than any other country in the world. This high maternal mortality rate are due to lack of health care services. This facility is going to provide the expectant mothers of Gurei community with a place to deliver their babies in a safe and clean environment,” Ms Graham said.
She said her hope is that the community will use the available water and solar “for the people of Gurei and not for one single person.”
Ms Graham also called for the formation of a strong community health committee to watch over the delivery of services at the center.
The health facility will be offering free standard deliveries before transferring any complicated cases to the Juba Teaching Hospital.
Other services that the center provides include, Voluntary Counseling and Testing, Anti-Retroviral Treatment, Prevention of Mother to Child transmission of HIV/AIDs services, and nutrition services for children and lactating mothers.
A woman leader in Gurei area, Mama Loice Juan expressed her happiness with the construction of the new maternity ward.
She said the center will ease the distance and transport obstacles faced by several mothers in seeking medical assistance at Juba Teaching Hospital.
“I am very grateful to the USAID. Mothers here go through a lot of troubles in trying to access health services at night. Juba Teaching Hospital is far from Gurei, but this facility will save a lot of lives of mothers and children,” Juan said.
Mama Juan however called on the government to ensure there is adequate security provided around the health center to enable women access it.
She asked the government to construct a fence and the deploy security officers around the health center to provide security for mothers and their babies.
“I would however like to appeal to our government to ensure there is security in this place. If mothers sleep here at night with their babies, they might be attacked, so we need a fence and security officers deployed here to protect our mothers and children,” she added.
The rehabilitation of the Gurei Maternity Ward is one of the USAID funded projects under the Responsive Assistance for Priority Infrastructure Development Program in South Sudan.
The center is expected to serve the people of Gueri, Luri, Gudele and the surroundings -West of Juba.
Additional information by: Ray Okech