South Sudan: Baby Emmanuel, a healthy Christmas baby
Early on Christmas morning, as the sun edged into the sky and festive preparations began, Babunie, 27 years old and heavily pregnant, walked through the gates of Nimule hospital.
She was greeted by Jane, an experienced midwife, who quickly led her onto the maternity ward. The speed was necessary; within five minutes of arriving Babunie had given birth to a healthy baby boy. She named him Emmanuel.
A hospital to be proud of
Nimule is a small town, located on the Ugandan border nearly 200km from Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
For the past year it has been the only hospital run by Save the Children, whose staff work tirelessly to provide basic healthcare to a community blighted by constant conflict and insecurity.
It caters to over 270,000 people – a number that can increase massively with the arrival of internally displaced people, as has become common in recent years.
Open seven days a week, its services include immunisation, nutrition, HIV treatment and prevention, surgery and more.
The hospital boasts 174 beds, five doctors and ten fully trained midwives.
It is one of South Sudan’s leading medical facilities for maternal care, delivering on average six babies a day, as well as providing essential postnatal services.
The highest maternal mortality rate in the world
In a country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, midwife Jane is incredibly proud of the work the hospital does.
“The women are happy to see us, as we do a good job. Women come from so far, sometimes even Juba. It is because we are free of charge.”
When asked why this is so essential, she looks up from her paperwork and pauses – perhaps querying why in the sad context of South Sudan this question need even be asked. “It is important to be free because people are poor, so deliver [their babies] at home, and that is very dangerous.”
Despite giving birth only hours before, by midday Babunie is keen to leave.
She has an older daughter to care for and a Christmas dinner to cook. Her husband has now arrived and crouches on the floor beside her bed, bobbing up and down impatiently.
Her new baby lies next to her, wrapped in a fresh sheet, quietly gurgling. “I am happy,” she says, “I have a second healthy child. I have big dreams for my baby. I dream he will grow up, go to school, and become a doctor or lawyer.”
Soon after, Babunie picks up Baby Emmanuel and walks out of the gate with a confident stride. There’s dinner to cook – and a new arrival to introduce to the family. It is Christmas day and Babunie is a busy woman.
The heat has now soared, but Jane the midwife shows no sign of slowing down. Making beds, folding bandages and filling in paperwork. It is only midday – and she knows all too well that there is plenty of time for more Christmas arrivals.