Challenges and hope in delivering health in South Sudan
In South Sudan, the World Health Organization (WHO) supports the Ministry of Health and works with 67 Health Cluster partners to provide health services within a country disrupted by conflict. Since December 2013, conflict has displaced some 2.3 million people, including 1.6 million internally displaced persons.
“South Sudan is a country that is affected by complex emergencies resulting from prolonged conflict, climate change, a broken health system and outbreaks of communicable diseases,” said Dr Abdulmumini Usman, WHO Representative in South Sudan.
A Health Cluster typically brings together a diverse set of national and international partners to work in a coordinated way to more effectively, predictably and efficiently deliver health services to people in need during an emergency.
With 4.4 million people in need of health assistance, the South Sudan Health Cluster aims to reach 2.5 million people with health services, including primary health care, maternal and child services, and routine vaccinations. Health cluster partners, including WHO, have received less than one-quarter of the US$110 million needed for 2016.
Dr Gabriel Novelo, WHO Technical Officer for the Global Health Cluster, recently visited South Sudan to assess the Health Cluster situation in South Sudan. While visiting a range of sites throughout the country, Dr Novelo observed ongoing obstacles to delivering health services, particularly insecurity and decreasing resources. However, he also met many Health Cluster partners helping the people of South Sudan.
“South Sudan is a challenging country to work in because of the lack of national capacity, decreasing resources and the persistent insecurity that keeps people constantly on the move,” Dr Novelo said. “However, I met many great people and partners who are dedicated to making it work to deliver lifesaving health services to people who desperately need it.”
Estimates find that South Sudan has one physician for 65 000 people and one midwife for 39 000 people.
“The destruction of health equipment like this can never be justified; it really is one of the unnecessary casualties of this conflict. It is a major frustration that Health Cluster partners keep encountering and discourages local health workers from coming back,” said Dr Novelo.
“Health Cluster partners and their extended networks continue to be committed to improving the lives of the people of South Sudan despite the difficult circumstances,” Dr Novelo said.