Published on 1 March 2021
This International Women’s Day we celebrate women who choose to challenge the status quo and their achievements. We follow unsung heroes Aluel Garang Tong and Achoya Kak Achor, and their life changing health support for women and children in their own communities in South Sudan.
Aluel is from Northern Bahr El Ghazel, in the North of South Sudan. She describes herself as a traditional midwife, supporting women in her local villages.
With 56% of the whole population without access to primary health care services, many women are reliant on traditional birth attendants, like Aluel, during pregnancy and birth. *
She explains how things used to happen.
Pregnant women would come complaining of stomach pains. I would receive the baby with bare hands without gloves and cleaning materials.
When Aluel was approached by our partner SPEDEP, she put herself forward to join a programme to provide training on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, nutrition, sanitation, and she now accompanies women to health centres to give birth.
Thanks to her hard work, people in her community are now changing their ways.
Aluel explains, 'We talk to pregnant women about going to hospital for treatment and to get vaccinations. We do the same for their children. There is a change of mindset.'
Traditional midwives like Aleul used to receive payment from families when attending to births at home. Despite losing out on this income, Aleul still pushes forward to encourage women to access healthcare for themselves and their children. She explains why,
Before women were dying outside [at home] during delivery. We now tell people to come to the hospital. The way women used to die, this does not happen anymore.
Achoya is the Head Woman in Kolo village, Western Bahr El Ghazel. Using her important role, she now trains mothers about good nutrition and hygiene, and exclusive breastfeeding.
She understands the challenges that people face in her community, as she too has struggled to support her five children since her husband sadly died in 2011.
Her community has been affected by drought and many people’s crops were destroyed last year.
Despite these challenges she values her work and believes that the mother-to-mother groups are making a real difference in reducing malnutrition in her community.
Thanks to Achoya’s efforts, supported by our partner Hope Agency for Relief and Development (HARD), she can see that her community are working together to help themselves. Mother-to-mother groups, like the ones that Achoya trains, are now taking messages about the importance of breastfeeding and nutrition out into the wider community through songs they have created that they know will resonate with others.
Today we celebrate Aleul and Achoya, unsung heroes, who alongside others in this project have played a critical role in ensuring that 15,000 women and more than 10,600 children under 5 have now been screened for malnutrition in this region.
Find out more about our UK Aid Matched funded work in South Sudan
*Humanitarian needs overview South Sudan UN OCHA 2020