War elevates maternal and children mortality rates

That war negatively affects maternal and children health and reproductive health in general is not news; it is true and real. Simply put, war and improved maternal and children health is mutually exclusive!!!!

A woman fleeing from war in Sudan

I have tried to bury my head from the looming war in South Sudan but I am unable. There was photo that made rounds on whats up and other social media platforms last week of South Sudanese children praying for peace in their motherland. The children were in tears. My heart broke in to 1001 pieces. I felt sorry for these children. My question is: why are our leaders selfish? Why aren’t they at least compassionate for children and women?

Let me give you a brief background so that at least we are on the same wavelength. A fresh wave of violence erupted in Juba on 8th July just one day before the country’s five-year anniversary of independence. The clashes killed more than 300 people over the course of a few days. By now, you must have seen some of the Kenyans returning home from Sudan- that is the effect of this fresh war.

Since the conflict began, it has been observed that 1 in 5 people in South Sudan have been displaced. More than 2.3 million citizens have been forced to flee their homes. Just over 720,000 people have escaped to neighboring countries in search of safety, but most are trapped inside the warring nation.

It may be a battle of supremacy to the leaders involved but to women and children, it means termination of destinies. What do I mean? Where there is war or violence, maternal and children mortality is high. It is no wonder countries like Somalia and DR Congo were named the worst countries to be a mother; at position 179 and 178 respectively according to Save the Children’s 2015 Mothers’ Index. What is common between these two countries is the presence of war.

According to World Health Organization, Somalia’s health indicators continue to be some of the worst in the world. More than 350 000 Somalis are refugees and a further 400 000 are internally displaced- displacement alone may impede a woman’s access to a health facility.

Syria is another good example of what war can do. Before the civil war, 96% of mothers in Syria gave birth with the help of trained medical assistant but 3 years of civil war caused hospitals and routine health care to collapse and medical services for women almost nonexistent.

Although fighting affects nearly the entire country, the truth is it affects women and children the most.

Where there is war, deteriorating impact on health infrastructure is expected to increase the relative risk that women die from complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

south-sudan-mother and her twins...
A Sudanese woman with her newborn twins- photo courtesy of ICRC

Violence, displacement and killings during conflict means non-existent healthcare system meaning women who are delivering are not delivering into safe hands. As people are displaced, health workers are displaced too meaning health facilities remain closed. Lack of manpower, lack of hospitals and clinics and lack of roads creates delays in getting help. In obstetrics and maternal health, any delay may mean death of the mother, the baby or both!

To the two factions of South Sudan government: who will you lead if people continue to die and get displaced? Remember a successful leader is the one who leads a healthy peaceful nation and what makes a healthy nation is healthy babies plus healthy mothers…kazi kwenu!!!!!




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