Hearing the voice of the community on reproductive health issues in South Sudan
KIT is currently conducting a study on the norms, preferences and expectations about sexual and reproductive health and related services in Western Bahr El Ghazal in South Sudan. The aim is to provide our partners and others information that can assist in improving their reproductive health services.
The research is part of SHARP, a three year reproductive health pogramme coordinated by KIT and funded by DGIS of the Dutch Ministery of Foreign Afairs.
Sumit Kane and Maryse Kok are in Wau county in Western Bahr El Ghazal to conduct the field work for the study, together with two researchers from the region. The study includes focus group discussions and interviews with men and women from the community, health workers, government and NGO representatives, traditional leaders and community-based workers such as traditional birth attendants.
Poor reproductive care
Maryse explains: “Fortunately, the security situation has improved compared with some months ago. The clinics operated by our implementing partner International Medical Corps are all running, except one. However, people are still lacking good reproductive health care here. As a “visitor”, you go in and out, but I’m touched by the situation.”
Health services in Wau county are gradually improving. Since the start of SHARP, clinics have been upgraded and midwives have been recruited. Still, because of lack of power and security during the night there is no 24-hour service in many clinics. Women often deliver at home without professional assistance. This is risky, and men and women know it: “a pregnant woman stands with one leg in and one leg out of the grave”, according to a local saying.
Importance of Community-based structures
Community-based structures, such as village health committees and groups of volunteers are not available or not functioning. These structures are not only important to facilitate referral to available clinics, but also to mobilize communities and address cultural practices and beliefs that could hinder reproductive health.
Sexuality: violence & poor education
“Today, the girls in our focus group discussion bravely told things that are happening to them. There is a lot of sexual violence. Girls get pregnant, the impregnator runs away, and they are left with no education, no money and no husband. At the same time, having many children is seen as a good thing. Sexuality education is hardly available, according to both the young women and men. They prefer to be informed by the grandmother or aunt.”
The fieldwork still goes on, and analysis of all data will follow in January 2015. A report with the key finding and proposed interventions will be available in March 2015.
For more information, contact Sumit Kane or Maryse Kok.