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ACROSS health facility South Sudan

“They saved my life”: Transforming health in South Sudan at birth and beyond

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With the support of our local partner, Elizabeth was able to deliver healthy twin girls in a country with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world.

With two thriving babies perched on her lap, the grin on Elizabeth’s face gives a glimpse into the joy, pride and triumph her story holds. Growing up during the civil war in South Sudan, life was not easy for Elizabeth, and when it came time to deliver her twins, she was up against another challenge. South Sudan has the highest rate globally of women dying in childbirth, and the eighth highest infant mortality rate in the world. With the added risk of a multiple birth, her survival – and that of her babies – was under threat.

But despite facing the challenges of pregnancy, birth and motherhood in a country where the stats were stacked against her, Elizabeth and her twins are enjoying the chance to live lives full of health and hope. And many others in her community are too – thanks to the presence of Tearfund’s partner ACROSS.

The morning her babies were born, Elizabeth was able to make it to the ACROSS-supported health facility – the closest such facility to her village. The facility is remarkably basic compared to the average birth ward of an Australian hospital, but Elizabeth can speak to the impact this simple facility, and its caring health workers, had on the safe delivery of her babies:

“The situation was going to be very bad, if there was no nearby health facility,” she said. “I formerly got antenatal care, vaccinations, received health education and now gave birth successfully with assistance of maternal and child health workers from ACROSS. They saved my life.”

Elizabeth with her newborn twin girls
Elizabeth with her newborn twin girls.
Elizabeth, and the twins at seven months old
The twins at seven months old. Elizabeth and her babies have been supported by ACROSS and are doing well.

When Marshall Currie, one of Tearfund’s project officers, visited ACROSS recently, he met Rebecca, one of the health workers at the clinic where Elizabeth gave birth.

“The challenges for this very basic, two-room facility were clear to see, however the community could also readily point to the life-saving treatment it is providing them,” Marshall shared. “Over 5,000 people receive vital outpatient services each year – that includes antenatal care, critical immunisations for children and pregnant mothers, malnutrition screening, and treatment for malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory illness and sexually transmitted infections. Added to this are the more than 10,000 people who are reached annually through the clinic’s weekly mobile health outreach program.

ACROSS health facility South Sudan
The health clinic run by ACROSS - a basic facility, but one that is helping to improve health and even save the lives of vulnerable mums and babies, like Elizabeth and her twins.
Rebecca, one of ACROSS' health workers at the frontline of strengthening the health base of an entire community and beyond.

“When I asked Rebecca how the presence of the clinic was important for her community, she proudly told a story about a pregnant woman who came to the clinic for antenatal care. She was malnourished and anaemic but was able to receive treatment as an outpatient. When the baby was due, Rebecca assisted with a safe delivery at the clinic (though most women still give birth at home, and Rebecca assists with these as well). Afterwards, when the mother had difficulties with her milk supply, the health workers at the clinic were able to help and support her through that too. The child has since been immunised through the clinic, and both mother and child are healthy and doing well. Rebecca and this clinic are at the front line of strengthening the health base of a community, which is a key part of building its resilience.”

ACROSS gathering South Sudan
Families gather for one of ACROSS' mobile health outreach sessions.

Elizabeth can quickly point out the difference that the presence of ACROSS is making in her community. “Diseases are being prevented and treated in the clinic. The health activities in our community have helped me to take care of my children’s health through good hygiene and sanitation practices, such as keeping water and food clean, washing hands.” These effective health measures ripple out through the community, protecting people from getting diseases such as scabies, conjunctivitis and diarrhoeal infections.

“Now I am knowledgeable and I know how to protect myself and my family from diseases,” Elizabeth shared. Speaking with a smile on her face, she said that she is now happy because she is healthy, her children are growing up well and she can teach them in future how to read and write. “My dream for the future is that I want my children to be educated and they will in turn take care of me and my husband when we grow old and we will have a better life.”

There is conflict and insecurity all around... We ask God that we can do our project activities without ambush and accidents, and that what we do in the community has an impact… and contributes to the people of South Sudan in the most beneficial ways.

James ACROSS Project Officer

To deliver this transformational health care – alongside initiatives in peace building, education and livelihoods – is not always straightforward for ACROSS. Close to a decade of civil war has led to prolonged political instability and insecurity, disrupting development. Climate shocks have crushed livelihoods. But ACROSS has served the communities in the region for decades, remaining faithfully and courageously present through these challenges. They are a reliable and respected source of hope, able to bring the salt and light of Jesus in a hard place.

“There is conflict and insecurity all around,” says James, a project officer with ACROSS, reflecting on how God sustains and strengthens their work. “We ask God that we can do our project activities without ambush and accidents, and that what we do in the community has an impact… and contributes to the people of South Sudan in the most beneficial ways.”

We celebrate partners like ACROSS, health workers like Rebecca, and mothers like Elizabeth. We cheer on project officers like Marshall who learn from and build up our partners. We thank God for supporters who fuel this work with their prayers and generosity. Together, we get to envision and enact a more just and compassionate world – one where mums, babies and entire communities can overcome the obstacles to health and hope.

Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).