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A docufilm about a woman’s quest to find a hospital where she can give birth

Suzan’s (and Josephine’s) journey

 Il cammino di Suzan  (e di Josephine)  DCM-011
02 December 2023

The footprints in the red earth of the savannah of mothers in South Sudan, as they face the long and exhausting hours of travel, searching for a place to give birth to their children, are there to see. Even the strongest wind, or the passing war, cannot erase them.

In their midst is also the footprints of Suzan, who is just over 20 years old. Her delicate, yet chiseled profile is accompanied by the most reserved silence, which only gradually reveals a smile. Suzan is about to have a daughter and thanks to the Doctors with Africa Cuamm organization, I have met her through a series of virtual encounters. Her story -like so many other stories of young women who set off from their home- tells us of the difficulties of a country, where to date, maternal mortality is 789 per 100,000 live births, neonatal mortality is 60 per 1,000 live births, and under-five mortality is 93 per 1,000. South Sudan is one of the most recently established states in the world, but by a painful paradox, it is also one of those countries where even today being born is an undertaking, and dying young becomes a sad routine triggered by the many critical issues that plague its people. Suzan lives in a village not far from Lui, in East Mundri County, in the southwest of the South Sudanese map, in a corner of the planet untraceable by any satellite coordinate. When you try to find a form of dialogue with her, you quickly understand that words are not her language, but rather a grammar of protected glances, made up of downwardly curved eyes; however, that does not stop her revealing her strength. The muscular and sentimental strength with which she walks, moving relentlessly, seeking not only a hospital, but a refuge for the daughter that will is about to come into the world. Her name will be Josephine, but before she sees the light, all that matters are the miles to go. Kilometers by day and by night, in the angry steps consumed by hunger, in the dizziness of the raging heat. Suzan, as if she had no body, armed only with a small plastic tank with ever-diminishing doses of water, has an unbreakable trend of steady march, and we, then, discover what it means, really, “to be a mother.” It means to endure, to love endlessly against one's own strength. It means moving forward.

Cuamm has been working in Sudan since 2006, and despite political instability and large socioeconomic gaps, it never stops reaching out to women like Suzan and so many other young mothers. In Lui, there is in fact a hospital where they work to serve more than 145,000 people. Being present therefore permits this structural capillarity to reach not only the neighboring territories, but also additional counties bordering that section of the region where everything seems inaccessible. Suzan, at the end of the whole route, manages to get right there. All this time she has been alone. There is no spouse or companion who has ever been seen beside her. Her tenacity is fueled by the engine of her loneliness, and when she arrives at the facility - this I will never forget - she does not stop, almost spellbound, to look around. She is a star gone mad with light on an orbit she has never seen.

We are there, and we grasp the powerful idea that motherhood, through travel, in this migration from life to life, where anything is possible, is not just a film. Ours that we have shot close to nameless mountains and unseen savannah shapes.

No, Suzan and Josephine's lives are something that flows beyond all limits. It is the mystery of existence when it reveals itself. It is the urgency of meaning that we all admire, as the greatest prodigy, which is always capable of repeating itself. At the sound of Josephine's first cries, after surviving dozens and dozens of miles without respite, we understand that anything really can be possible. We were very fortunate to witness it and to be able to tell the story.

by Giuseppe Carrieri
Director and university lecturer

Lullabies in wartime

Alone, armed with barely a spade and a pile of seeds, Suzan, in her last month of pregnancy, sets out to reach the first hospital that will allow her to give birth to the child she is carrying. Along unfamiliar roads in the most remote corner of South Sudan, her tracks are etched in the dust, in the endless wait for someone to finally notice her.

It is one of four episodes of Lullabies in the Time of War, a miniseries that carries with it the signs and wounds of a sometimes forgotten humanity. The director is Giuseppe Carrieri and airs in December on Tv2000, the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) channel.

Here the director tells how the episode entitled Suzan came about. The story is that of the journey of a pregnant woman who crosses miles in South Sudan to bring her daughter into the world in the Cuamm hospital.