Birth of a new nation

Decades of conflict and marginalization have left South Sudan the most dangerous country on earth in which to give birth. For every 100,000 births in South Sudan, more than 2,000 mothers die. Ninety percent of women give birth away from formal medical facilities and without the help of professionally trained assistants. One of the main causes of South Sudan’s high maternal mortality rate is a dearth of qualified birth attendants: during the civil wars that raged since the mid-1950s conducting the necessary formal medical training was all but impossible. Now, seven years after a peace accord was signed, and a year after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, things are beginning to change. Birth of a New Nation focuses on Juba Teaching Hospital’s new college of nursing and midwifery. Students here, drawn from all of the country’s 17 states, speak of their determination to take their new skills back to their villages to reduce the scourge of maternal mortality. (2012)