Community outreach shares knowledge that saves lives

Community mobilisation is a key strategy for encouraging pregnant women to deliver at health facilities and ultimately helping to reduce South Sudan’s high maternal mortality rate.

In Tonj South County, Warrap State, HPF through its implementing partner (IP) Comitato Collaborazione Medica (CCM), is supporting the County Health Department (CHD) to educate communities about when and how to seek emergency care for obstetric complications.

Throughout April 2015, an outreach team from Tonj Civil Hospital including two community mobilisers, a PMTCT counsellor and a midwife, gathered community members for weekly discussions on topics related to safe motherhood and child health in the surrounding villages.

Wiliam, 34, has lived in Makue village for 13 years and was among those who was mobilised to attend a community dialogue session near his home on 4 April. When he heard about the session, William said he was motivated to attend to find out how to prevent women from dying during childbirth.

“I was willing to help my community and the meeting agenda was very interesting as it is solving a frontline problem that we suffered daily.”

“I learnt about the benefit of seeking care at the health facility, complications in labour and delivery, and also bleeding during pregnancy which is a danger for the mother and the baby.”

During the session, community mobilisers also shared the phone number for the new free ambulance service to transport emergency obstetric and neonatal cases to Tonj Civil Hospital for care. Less than two weeks later, this information saved a young woman’s life when William became the first person from his village to call the new ambulance service.

The 20-year-old first-time mother had been in labour at home for two days. She had not attended the community dialogue herself and didn’t recognise the danger signs, nor did she know about the services available to her at the hospital, but luckily William did.

“According to my understanding she was suffering from labour pain for two days so she needed to go to the hospital,” said William. “There is not any family relation between me and the mother but we are living in the same village so if you have any information or knowledge it is not only for your family. During our discussion in the community meeting it was our assignment given by the CCM staff to diffuse the message to those who did not attend the meeting. That’s why I called the ambulance.”

The woman was taken by ambulance to Tonj Civil hospital where an obstetric examination revealed signs of obstructed labour and pre-rupture of the uterus, complications which can prove deadly for mother and child if not treated.

Thanks to William’s quick thinking in using the knowledge he gained from the outreach session, the young woman and her son received the emergency care they needed. The hospital team carried out an emergency caesarean section and both the woman and her baby boy survived. They were discharged six days later.

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