South Sudan has made significant progress in advancing the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) but still faces many challenges to fulfill the ICPD Programme of Action, according to a UNFPA official.

“We have brought down maternal deaths but it remains high. We need more health professionals to work in the health sector and ensure sustained deployment and retention of health workers, especially doctors, midwives and nurses,” Dr. Many Otieno, UNFPA Representative in South Sudan, said during a panel discussion focused on South Sudan and the 25th anniversary of ICPD at the 2019 Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Dr. Otieno noted that South Sudan, which only became independent in 2011 and was still part of Sudan when the ICPD took place in Cairo in 1994, needs to bring health services closer to or more accessible to the people.

With less than 40 per cent of health facilities operational and access to health services very limited in rural communities, she explained that the way forward is to "rehabilitate the facilities and put in place a strong referral network so that women and girls have access to life-saving services ” like midwifery.

The safe deliveries and family planning services that midwifes offer, she added, are at the very heart of the ICPD agenda.

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