"We save the lives of mothers and newborns"

21 young South Sudanese women celebrated their graduation this summer at the midwifery school in Lokichoggio. Mission 21 supports the three-year training and helps mothers and infants to receive better medical care.

"My passion is to help women bring new life into the world," says one of the happy graduates of the midwifery school. The school gave her a professional qualification and a positive future perspective. That is not something that can be taken for granted, as a civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013.

Millions of people had to flee as a result. The security situation is fragile even after several peace agreements. Health care provision is also suffering as a result. According to UNICEF figures, 62 out of 1000 children die in their first year of life. In order to reduce the extremely high maternal and child mortality rates, well-trained midwives are urgently needed.

The Mission 21-supported midwifery school is located in Lokichoggio, near a displaced persons camp in northern Kenya. It welcomes young women from all regions and ethnic groups of South Sudan. In this way it also offers the students a framework for cooperation with other ethnic groups. In addition to technical training, this is a special feature of the school, as the civil war led to hostility and violence between different ethnic groups. The students also receive psychosocial support and learn how to help traumatised people deal with their war experiences.

In addition to theory, the course also includes a practical part. This is regarded by the students as particularly important because they accompany a total of 50 births during their internships in a hospital. In this way they can apply their new knowledge directly. The students also go on many home visits and learn, for example, how to advise expectant mothers on family planning or how to support women living with HIV.

It is particularly gratifying that over 90% of the students graduated this year. This is a remarkable achievement because the learning conditions are very difficult. For example, there is no electricity on most days. The students also experienced great emotional stress. In 2017, a xenophobic mob attacked the school. The mob entered the premises, destroyed and stole material and wanted to attack the students who had to hide. One of the students remembers: "My low point was the incident in Lokichoggio and the subsequent evacuation to the displaced persons camp Kakuma. I lost everything I possessed."

Despite all these difficulties, the students recommend the training to others: "The school has given me many valuable experiences and changed my life. It has made me a self-confident and proud midwife," says one of the new midwives. She and the others are ready to leave northern Kenya to return to South Sudan. The students know how much their home country needs midwives. One of the graduates says, "My studies are very important because we save the lives of mothers and newborns.

Text: Eva Sidler, Photo: Bernard O. Suwa

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