Mary is a familiar face to many of the families in Warliet, South Sudan – in fact, she’s one of the first faces many of the locals would have laid eyes on!
Mary is one of two volunteer Traditional Birth Attendants serving the Warliet community, based at a health clinic run with the support of TEAR’s local partner ACROSS. She’s delivered countless babies over many years – and now, some of her ‘babies’ are now having children of their own!
Her ‘birthing suite’ is a far cry from the mood-lit rooms many Australian women experience – there’s no fitball or water birth option – just one birthing table and capacity for women giving birth to stay overnight. She isn’t paid for her services, but often receives payment in kind from the families she helps, like sugar, oil or grain. Yet Mary’s experience and care, alongside other initiatives from ACROSS, is saving lives and giving mums and their new arrivals the best chance to thrive.
In South Sudan, only 12% of women give birth in a health facility, and ACROSS are aiming to see this increase to 25% in the Warliet community. Antenatal care services and trained Traditional Birth Attendants like Mary play an important role in encouraging more women to choose to have their babies in a health facility. In the twelve month period leading up to June last year, 680 pregnant women visited the Warliet clinic for antenatal care, and 40 women delivered their babies at the clinic.
The support for local mums continues beyond the clinic, too. ACROSS supports Community Health Workers who conduct outreach sessions (pictured at top of page), immunising children and providing mosquito nets, and bringing health education alongside messages about issues like gender-based violence. This vital work has challenged widely held beliefs, and opened up access to treatment and care – over 12,000 people were reached through health outreach activities in 2019.
We’re inspired by midwives everywhere, but especially those serving in under-resourced communities, like Mary. They work with limited resources, operate under basic conditions, and sometimes even courageously challenge harmful practices or beliefs. Thanks to your support for TEAR, partners like ACROSS are enabled to work alongside people like Mary to empower women and bring life in places of great need.
Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).