Population Matters

Birth of a Nation

July 14th, 2011

After struggling for over 50 years to gain independence, a fight that has cost millions of lives, the Republic of South Sudan on Saturday July 9th became an independent country and today was made the 193rd member state of the United Nations. That is the good news; unfortunately the bad news is very bad. South Sudan will now become one of the least developed countries in the world with many development indicators even well below the levels in northern Sudan, as illustrated by an interactive map on the Guardian website.

South Sudan is facing many challenges and will need assistance in many areas for the foreseeable future. One of those areas where the need is urgent is in the area of maternal and reproductive health. In northern Sudan 638 women die per 100,000 live births, however in South Sudan the maternal mortality rate is triple that level with 1,989 women dying per 100, 000 live births.  Last week, Nicholas Kristof pointed out that a girl in South Sudan is three times more likely to die in childbirth as become literate. This is a tragedy.

The good news is we know what works. We need to prevent mothers from dying in childbirth by investing in maternal health care and family planning. Around the world we have seen that by investing in family planning services and information we can prevent unintended pregnancies, abortion, and save children and mothers. It is one of the most cost effective interventions that can save women’s lives. For every $100 million invested in family planning 2.1 million unintended pregnancies are prevented, 825,000 abortions are prevented, 70,000 infant deaths are prevented, and 4,000 mother lives are saved.  Investing in family planning saves lives. It works elsewhere and it can work in South Sudan.

So while South Sudan is celebrating the birth of their nation, let us not forget all the women in South Sudan who lose their lives giving birth.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

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