The birth of a child is a precious, joyous moment. Alas, it is also one fraught with risks, particularly where conditions for delivering babies are far from ideal. Pariak used to be one of those places, but having just received a maternity ward, handed over by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), mothers-to-be have reason to ululate.
For some, however, the new addition to the community’s primary health care centre arrived too late. Pariak resident Ding Choor Mach knows that better than most.
“Last year, I gave birth at home and lost my baby. There was nowhere safe to deliver, it was night and impossible to travel to the hospital in Bor, where professional services were available,” she said. Knowing that a repeat of that dreadful scenario is now unlikely, she was one of the women leading the celebrations when the ward was inaugurated.
Funded by the peacekeeping mission and constructed by the national non-governmental organization Impact Action, the building comprises five consultation and delivery rooms and a reception area. Apart from catering to the needs of women before, during and after childbirth, the maternity ward can also be used for midwifery and obstetrics trainings of those currently learning the ropes.
A pair of safe hands for conducting such capacity building belongs to Atong Deng Wai, a local midwife since 1996.
“For more than 25 years I have been helping mothers who have given birth at home, but finally I will be able to perform my duties better and safer under much better conditions,” she said, positively beaming.
Her smile is thoroughly justified: According to statistics from the World Health Organization, eight out of every thousand childbirths that took place in South Sudan as recently as 2021 resulted in the death of the would-be mother.
The Pariak maternity ward is an example of an UNMISS Quick Impact Project requested by local communities across the country and then vetted by the peacekeeping mission.
Gilbert Nantsa, Officer-in-Charge of its Field Office in Bor, explains that the funding of this project, with women as its main beneficiaries, was anything but a coincidence.
“UN Peacekeeping is doing its best to advance the Women, Peace and Security agenda, not least by identifying and implementing suitable Quick Impact Projects, like the one here today,” he said.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).