Access to adequate antenatal care (ANC) is critical to ensure good maternal health and to prevent maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. South Sudan has one of the world’s poorest health indicators due to a fragile health system and a combination of socio-cultural, economic, and political factors that prevent access to care.
This qualitative study was conducted to identify barriers to the utilization of ANC services in Rumbek North County in South Sudan. Data were collected through 14 focus group discussions with 169 women and 45 men and 12 key informant interviews with community leaders, staff working in health facilities, and the staff of the County Health Department.
This study identified a myriad of factors deeply entrenched in the society, which impede women from utilizing ANC services. These included long distance to health facilities, lack of means of transportation to them, floods and poor roads, and demand for payment for health care at some health facilities; the negative influence of husbands who were reluctant to allow their wives to attend ANC, low perceived risk of pregnancy-related complications, and distrust of the quality of care and the efficacy of medical treatment.
These barriers should be considered in the new service planning implemented in the county to tangibly improve care and access to safe childbirth.