JUBA, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan maternal death rates have declined despite ongoing challenges stemming from the more than three years of violence, officials said on Wednesday.
Esperance Fundira, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative, said South Sudan's maternal mortality death ratio have decreased from 2,059 since 2006 to 789 per 100,000 live births, which is an improvement following sustained donor support that has seen the number of nurses and midwives rise from 10 to more than 400.
Fundira said in 2012, UNFPA started working with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to implement the Strengthening Midwifery Services Project through the support of the governments of Canada and Sweden.
"South Sudan had less than 10 qualified midwives serving a population of about 10 million. Through the Strengthening Midwifery Services Project, that number has grown to more than 400 today," she said at the opening of the second annual Nurses and Midwifery conference in Juba.
In 2015, Fundira said the World Bank and the UN came up with new estimates for maternal mortality ratio, which showed maternal deaths have decreased to 789 per 100,000 live births for South Sudan which is an improvement.
She disclosed that there is an ongoing effort now from MOH and other organizations, including UNFPA to conduct a national maternal mortality survey in order to come up with more accurate data to ensure targeted and effective programming to bring maternal and new born deaths down to zero and empower women and girls.
Fundira however acknowledged that there is more work that needs to be done to invest in health professionals, including health facilities improvement, training and education.
UNFPA will continue investing in midwifery and nursing in South Sudan in order to ensure that there is a midwife at every birth and nursing services are brought closer to the people, she added.
The Jubek State Minister of Health Felix Lado, said the ongoing conference will come out with specific objectives for the improvement of service delivery and urged more support toward training of more nurses and midwives at local and national level.
"Training is currently being undertaken at local levels. I appeal to all States to at least open up nurses and midwifery schools because this training in Juba will not be enough. You cannot reach primary health centers in rural areas because the number (of nurses) is very small," he said.
Janet Michael, Director of Nurses and Midwifery at MOH, said the ongoing conflict has exacerbated health conditions in the war-torn country as the majority of people cannot afford proper health care and meals due to economic hardship.
She blamed the rising number of fistula cases now as high as 89,000 among girls aged between 13-18 years on early marriage as only 680 cases of these have been successfully treated. Enditem