Sudan: An amazing mom caring in the community
January 6, 2011 by Sophia Jones-Mwangi
|With training from the IRC, home-based community health providers like Nyibol Akol Padiet (left) are treating common childhood diseases in their own villages. “Bringing care to the communities is extremely effective because the children are being treated early,” says Susan Purdin, the IRC’s country director in Southern Sudan. Credit: Sophia Mwangi/IRC|
I enjoy spending time with other moms, chatting about life, kids and work. I never thought I would have the opportunity to do this during my recent trip for the International Rescue Committee to Northern Bahr El Ghazal. But I did. Sitting under a huge tree, drinking delicious sweet tea, I listened to Nyibol Akol Padiet, 35, tell me about her work and how proud she was to be making a difference in the lives of the children in the community she lives in.
Like me, Nyibol has teenage daughters. The three girls sat nearby pounding grain, smiling proudly as their mother spoke about the sick children who come to her home and how she makes them better. This amazing woman is a community health provider, one of more than 1,700 people selected by their neighbors and trained by the IRC to help identify and treat malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia – the main killers of children under five in Southern Sudan.
In a region where extreme poverty and two decades of civil war have left 70% of the population without access to health care, one child in seven dies before their fifth birthday. Home-based community health providers like Nyibol are at the forefront of the battle to reduce these deaths.
“Yesterday I treated five children, the day before it was six.” Nyibol said. She told me how happy people in her village are that she is there and able to treat their children quickly and at no cost.
Nyibol explained that before she became a community health provider, just over a year ago, local mothers would have to walk three hours to the nearest clinic, carrying a sick child — often with all his or her siblings in tow. “There were severe cases of diarrhea and malaria, and stiff neck caused by malaria or meningitis,” she said. But now, thanks to the IRC’s community-based care program, children are receiving treatment early in the course of their illness — before complications can set in.
When the IRC first piloted this project in Southern Sudan, we measured an 81% drop in under-five deaths. This proved its effectiveness and we have been expanding it to more and more villages since then.
As Nyibol showed me her mortality log, a huge book in which she is supposed to record the deaths of any children she has treated, I saw there was not one single entry. She slammed it shut, the dust flying out — testament to the fact that the book is never opened and hopefully never will be.
As I got ready to leave I asked Nyibol what her daughters want to be when they grow up. Pointing to each one she said, “That one would like to be a community health provider like me, that one wants to be a nurse and the other one wants to be a doctor.” She beamed. “This is because of the work I am doing.”
Learn more about the IRC's work in Southern Sudan and how you can help: Visit our Sudan Crisis Watch report at Rescue.org.