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Over the past two decades, the world has seen unprecedented progress in child survival, halving the number of children worldwide who die before their fifth birthday to 5.6 million in 2016. But despite these advances, there has been slower progress for newborns. 7,000 newborns die every day.

Millions of children’s lives can be saved by ensuring that the healthcare system in every country has the funding, equipment and skilled healthcare workers it needs to make sure every baby is born into a safe pair of hands.

South Sudan has one of the highest newborn mortality rates in the world: one in 26 newborn babies die within the first month of life. Four years into a brutal conflict, a shortage of trained health workers and a lack of essential medicines and equipment mean that giving birth in South Sudan results far too often in tragedy. And yet, many of these deaths are preventable.

With funding support from the Government of Canada and Kiwanis International, UNICEF is working in South Sudan to end child deaths from tetanus, including training health care workers and mothers on hygienic birth practices. While many newborn lives have been saved by these efforts, far too many newborns in the country are still dying in their first month of life from preventable causes. Discover the hard reality facing newborns and their mothers in Juba, South Sudan’s capital.

A look into the South Sudan reality

At the Juba Teaching Hospital in South Sudan’s capital, more than 10% of infants born at the neonatal clinic die.

[© UNICEF/UN0159232/Naftalin]

Newborn Ayah weighs only 1.3 kilograms and suffers from sepsis and jaundice. Despite being in one of only two functioning incubators on the neonatal ward, the hospital does not have the equipment to treat him. Adding to the tragedy, Ayah’s mother bled to death following his delivery.

[© UNICEF/UN0159238/Naftalin]

(Left) Agnes, 20, grimaces in pain as midwives try to stop her bleeding as she holds her newborn.

“I had to bring everything from my house. There is nothing good about delivering in the hospital. I wouldn’t come here again to deliver” says Agnes.

[© UNICEF/UN0159241/Naftalin]

Midwives attend to a birth in the delivery room as a porter mops the floor. The hospital is short on essential drugs and medical equipement, putting mothers and babies at risk.

[© UNICEF/UN0159239/Naftalin]

“If a baby needs anything more than basic treatment then there is nothing we can do” says the paediatrician on the neonatal ward. “We are doing our absolute best but some things are simply out of our control.”

A nurse observes a premature baby lying in an incubator.

[© UNICEF/UN0159224/Naftalin]

A midwife speaks with a mother at the hospital. Worldwide, more than 80 per cent of newborn deaths are due to prematurity, complications during birth or infections such as pneumonia and sepsis. These deaths are preventable with access to well-trained midwives and other proven solutions.