Photographers' Blog

Born in the world’s newest country

Juba, South Sudan

By Andreea Campeanu

“Go look inside and then come back and tell us what you think,” the doctor responsible for the maternity unit at the Juba Teaching Hospital in South Sudan told me. “We are many years behind”, was his own assessment.

I had arrived in Juba, South Sudan, a few weeks earlier with feelings of trepidation but also with a great deal of excitement. Since 2010 I had wanted to come here. At that time I was living in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum – before the South’s independence in July 2011.

South Sudan is the world’s newest country, but according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) it also has the far less welcome accolade of having the planet’s highest maternal mortality rates.

The UNDP website says that an estimated 2,045 out of every 100,000 women in the country die from pregnancy and only 14.7 percent of births there are attended by skilled professionals. There is just one qualified midwife in South Sudan per 30,000 people, according to the organization.

I went to Juba Teaching Hospital and wanted to see what the maternity unit there was like. The walls of the ward seemed to have been recently painted blue and it was clean, but the rooms were quite small so it wasn’t easy to move around between mothers with babies, babies on beds, machines and nurses at work.

My most miserable day

When asked about covering South Sudan and its journey to independence, a story that was largely reported as a positive event, photographer Goran Tomasevic had the following to say in a recent interview:

“Honestly, it was one of the most miserable days in my life. It was so disorganized.

The day before, there was still construction going on in the place where the Independence Day celebrations were to be held. Everyone had to queue for some press passes for maybe 3-4 hours but they gave press cards to NGOs and to everyone. Somehow, they managed to finish the construction but then totally screwed up with security in general. We didn’t know where to go. There were some stands up so we pushed here and there. They would kick us back and we would run around and they would pull us back again.

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