South Sudan: Community Health Promoters Bring Essential Services to Rural Homes in South Sudan

Eliaba Anthony Amba lives with his wife and two children in a village in Maridi, west of South Sudan's capital city Juba.

A maize and cassava farmer, Mr. Amba is also a Home Health Promoter (HHP) in charge of 20 households that consist of approximately 175 people. He is also disabled, but that does not deter him from spreading health messages among the people living in his community.

He emphasized the importance of keeping our environment clean and washing our hands also before eating. Our children are now practicing good personal hygiene habits.

As a health promoter endorsed by his village and the area Chief, Mr. Amba's role is to teach people about essential health practices such as handwashing, eating a balanced diet and immunization. He also encourages pregnant mothers to deliver in hospitals in order to reduce maternal, child and infant mortality.

South Sudan has one of the highest rates of infant, child and maternal mortality in the world, and community health promoters like him play a vital role in improving access to health education in communities.

Data from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that the maternal mortality ratio in South Sudan stood at 789 per 100,000 live births in 2019, while neonatal and under-five mortality rates stood at 39 and 96 per 1,000 live births respectively, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The training Mr. Amba received from organizations such as Amref Health Africa in South Sudan with support from Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ) and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has equipped him and other health promoters with skills and knowledge to educate people about disease prevention measures such as handwashing, proper sanitation and hygiene, exclusive breastfeeding, among other practices.

"I have leant a lot from this training. We have been taught different approaches to pass health messages appropriately to the community," says Mr. Amba.

His work is evident and appreciated by his community.

Bennet Khamis, a father of six children and a farmer in the area, has seen the fruit of Mr. Amba's work. Before his intervention, Mr. Bennet's children often fell sick, mostly with malaria or diarrhea. However, with proper information on how to tackle these ailments, the children do no longer fall ill as regularly.

"Eliaba Amba has helped my family a lot. I used to spend a lot of money treating my children because they fell sick frequently. He visited us and taught us the measures to take in order to prevent some of these diseases," said Mr. Bennet.

In addition, he taught the Bennet family about good hygiene practices.

"He emphasized the importance of keeping our environment clean and washing our hands also before eating. Our children are now practicing good personal hygiene habits," said Mr. Bennet, adding that every time Mr. Amba pays them a visit, he speaks with the whole family. "We sit together like in a school. I enjoy his lessons; he is a good teacher who has changed our lives."

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