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The Government of Canada announced an additional 4.2 million Canadian dollars contribution to the United Nations Population Fund in South Sudan to boost midwifery services and support the response to gender-based violence as the country deals with the chronic humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In partnership with the UNFPA and the Ministry of Health, the Canadian government is supporting the Strengthening Midwifery Services Project, which aims to address the high maternal death rate in the country, which is one of the highest in the world. The additional funding will support the training and deployment of midwives and other health professionals, and support the South Sudan Nurses and Midwives Association

Canada also supports the response to gender-based violence through one-stop centres that provide immediate integrated and survivor-centred medical, psychosocial and legal services to survivors of GBV in Juba, Rumbek and Malualkon.

In an interview with UN radio station Radio Miraya, Canadian Ambassador to South Sudan Douglas Scott Proudfoot said the additional funding is to complement the CAD50-million for the current phase (2016-2020) of the midwifery project. “We have been doing this for many years now in South Sudan to build the midwifery sector,” Mr. Proudfoot said. Canada has been supporting the project since 2012.

A midwife holds a session on COVID-19 for women attending antenatal care at a health facility in South Sudan. ©UNFPA South Sudan

UNFPA Country Representative Dr. Mary Otieno expressed appreciation for Canada’s continuing support for the sexual and reproductive health programme in South Sudan and acknowledged the timeliness of the additional funding amidst the COVID-19 emergency. At the global level, Canada, which has adopted a feminist approach to its international assistance policy, is a strong partner of UNFPA on women’s sexual and reproductive health and gender equality.

“Women’s sexual and reproductive health is at greater risk now due to COVID-19. We need to ensure that they have uninterrupted access to health care - as well as services for management of sexual and gender-based violence, which is exacerbated by the current restrictions and stay-at-home orders imposed by COVID-19,” Dr. Otieno said.

Through the midwifery project, also supported by the Government of Sweden, the number of qualified midwives in South Sudan has increased from less than 10 at the country’s independence in 2011 to more than 800 today and the number of obstetricians has increased from only 6 to over 30 during the same period.

The announcement comes alongside the CAD4.5 million contribution of the Canadian government to the South Sudan Health Pooled Fund in the fight against COVID-19. Ambassador Proudfoot said COVID-19 has affected the economy and the ability of people to move around and emphasized the need for health service providers to reach the states to deliver services while also protecting themselves from infection.

UNFPA is already supporting the Ministry of Health and the South Sudan Nurses and Midwives Association in the training of health workers including midwives on COVID-19 prevention measures.