Feature: South Sudan's male midwives overcome cultural prejudice to save lives

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-03 17:33:29|Editor: Yamei
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JUBA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- As violence continues in some parts of South Sudan, some health professionals in the war-torn country remain committed to saving lives despite difficult working conditions and shortage of drugs. And these include male midwives and nurses.

Michael Mayen Peter, 31, a male midwife at Wau Teaching hospital in the northwest Wau State, told Xinhua in a recent interview that they have to work day and night in shifts in overcrowded wards amid shortage of drugs and equipment in order to save high number of mothers in labor pains and also treat several cases of preventable diseases at the country's second largest hospital.

"We don't have enough midwives and nurses to facilitate the maternity ward, like in a day the ward may be full with mothers delivering alone apart from post-natal care," Mayen said in Juba.

He added that lack of staff and equipment interfere with treatment of other common diseases like malaria and syphilis as drugs are not administered to patients within the right time.

Mayen is one of the few 400 certified nurses and midwives in the youngest country having graduated in 2015 at the Wau School of Nurses and Midwifery after joining in 2013.

He said he is undeterred by cultural prejudices, well aware that most people in his community are yet to fully appreciate the role played by midwives, as a sizable number of people still use traditional birth attendants.

These sustained efforts of midwives like Mayen, supported by donor funding since 2012, have further helped increase the number of nurses and midwives leading to reduction in maternal death from 2,059 to 789 per 100,000 live births.

"I was motivated because our mothers are dying for complications that are preventable. The maternal mortality rate is very high. At the time I finished my secondary school, I decided to join the nurses and midwives institute in order to help my community," said Mayen who prides himself in having helped mothers to deliver more than 100 babies.

He added: "In my community they feel I do not have knowledge about this (midwifery) because of ignorance, but we used to do public awareness so that many men can join us to practice this skill."

Tobia Thiep Akot, 34, is another male midwife at Mayen county health center of Aweil North in the Northern Bhar El Ghazal region who has been a midwife for six years. He said they have managed to help reduce the once high maternal death in the five counties in the region after they launched public awareness association to discourage early child marriage which he adds is a major contributor to maternal deaths.

"Before 2011 the maternal mortality rate was very high but after we formed this association on awareness, the situation has improved," he said.

Akot added that educated men are very few in South Sudan, hence the reason behind his commitment to help provide safe birth to mothers.

According to UN Educational and Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO), South Sudan has 27 percent literacy rate.

"For me I am very comfortable even the ladies also are very comfortable. Wherever I was away from the facility in Juba I received a lot of phone calls asking for me and I am also very proud because I would like to carry on with my career," Akot revealed.

Christopher Ali, a nursing tutor in Maridi School of Nursing and Midwifery in the Western Equatorial region, told Xinhua that insecurity is one of the few hindrances they face in training nurses and midwives.

"The learning environment is not conducive, sometimes insecurity can disturb their (students') learning but all in all they are doing well despite these challenges," he said.

He hailed the work of male midwives, adding that the public perception about their work is fast changing.

"Initially the communities were confused but then we started telling them about the services the male nurses or midwives render which turned out to be very good and they started to appreciate," Ali said.

Rose Iromo Angelo, 30, is a nurse from Kapoeta State in Eastern Equatorial region. She said they are struggling to work without salaries amid insecurity as some mothers have ended up dying while delivering at night in their homes.

"We face a lot challenges in maternity, the nurses are there but there is no money. We are just working as volunteers because we love our people.

"We have taken around seven months without salaries. All this long we have been suffering even we could not pay our children's school fees."