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South Sudan: Martha’s* story

The air around Nimule Hospital in South Sudan is thick with dust. A hot African sun beats down and pregnant mothers cluster in the shade of sparse trees, fanning themselves and sipping water. They are all relieved to be here.

Martha*, who fled violence in her home region of South Sudan, waits to give birth in Nimule Hospital

Recent fighting has re-opened old wounds in South Sudan, rooted in decades of brutal civil war. Over two million people are thought to have died then, and in the latest bout of fighting over 10,000 more have been killed. This conflict, plus underlying poverty, has prevented women from accessing trained midwives and essential healthcare for years.

Martha* was one of them. She rests against a concrete wall in the shade, hands resting gently on her pregnant belly. She speaks quickly, her hands fluttering as she recounts her story.

Fleeing her home after heavy fighting broke out, Martha ran into the bush, carrying her two young children.

“When we were running we did not stop for rest at all. We had no mosquito nets, no mattresses, no food or water. I was so tired, my whole body was aching. I thought my baby would die in my womb…”

Martha had lost one baby the year before – with no hospital or doctors nearby, there was no-one to help her when her pregnancy went wrong. She miscarried alone in her home. When she fell sick again with this pregnancy, she feared the worst. But thanks to Nimule Hospital, this time it is different.

Within minutes of her limping through the gate, heavy with pregnancy, the nurses are testing her for malaria and checking on the health of her unborn baby. The malaria test is positive, and she is quickly hooked up to a drip with medicine. Two days later, she is well enough to walk outside.

Martha is convinced that she owes her baby’s life to the doctors at Nimule Hospital. “Thank God I reached this place. I really think that if this hospital were not here, I would have lost this child too.”

Nimule Hospital is in South Sudan, near the Uganda border; it is the only hospital in the county. The hospital has been supported by Merlin, which is becoming part of Save the Children, for the past 10 years. In the last month, midwives there have helped over 176 women give birth safely. To read our report on preventing newborn deaths, click here.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

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