Sudan Health Transformation Project

Nator Namunya, 6-months old, receives a vaccination in Kapoeta North County. Credit: Save the Children.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on the Save the Children website.

The healthcare system in South Sudan is struggling to get on to its feet after the devastation of over 20 years of war. The biggest killers of children in southern Sudan are malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections. These preventable diseases can be easy to treat. But, on average, only one in four people in South Sudan are within reach of a health center. Only 3 percent of children under two in South Sudan are fully immunized against killer diseases and only 12 percent of families have a mosquito net in their home.

Latrine construction in Lologo

Walking through Lologo South, I am struck how the community here mirrors both Juba and South Sudan as a whole. Growth is explosive throughout this newly independent nation. Every day a new shop or office building breaks ground. In Lologo South, a residential community just south of Juba, thousands of new houses, fences, and animal carrels are in various states of construction. And importantly, thanks to Management Sciences for Health (MSH), there are also latrines.

In September 2010, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded, MSH-led Sudan Health Transformation Project, Phase 2 (SHTP II), in conjunction with Population Services International and the Basic Services Fund, piloted a 3-month Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) project to determine the most effective strategies to increase sanitary defecation methods in Southern Sudan.

Deborah Nyantiok is 56 years old and lives with her grandchildren in Kaya, near the border of Uganda. She lost her husband during Sudan’s 20-year civil war and now takes care of her grandchildren. In order to pay for food and school fees, Deborah operates a small business and keeps animals to generate income. Despite her hard work, in the past Deborah found life difficult as she and her grandchildren often fell ill.

Lacking a source of clean drinking water, residents of Kaya gather drinking water from the nearby Kaya River. While the river provides vital irrigation which makes the surrounding land lush and green, unfortunately it also carries dangerous viruses and bacteria. These pathogens cause many waterborne ailments like typhoid, diarrhea, and parasitic diseases. Deborah and her grandchildren often suffered from these diseases, and while they sought medical treatment, it always seemed only a matter of time until their suffering returned.

South Sudan is recovering from five decades of civil war. A lack of infrastructure, human resources, and ongoing violence has ravished the country’s health services. MSH is helping the new Ministry of Health manage the transition to a national health system in the midst of renewed fighting in Abyei and as masses of people, anticipating the formation of the world’s newest country on July 9, 2011, re-enter South Sudan.

Health Clinic in Southern Sudan

 

For the past week, we in Southern Sudan have crowded polling stations to vote on a referendum that, if passed, would declare Southern Sudan the world’s newest nation. Observers have declared the voting “broadly fair,” and the 60 percent voter turnout required for the vote to pass has been reached. We are optimistic that this referendum will bring us closer to a peaceful, prosperous future.

The mood in Juba (the capital city of Southern Sudan) is bright as we await the results of the polls, set to be announced February 1. But our government and people realize that secession will bring new challenges along with its opportunities. About 150,000 of our Southern Sudanese brothers and sisters have returned home in recent weeks and still more are expected. While we welcome them joyfully and are delighted to see extended families reunited, this great influx of people will put additional strain on a health system that already struggles to meet the needs of the people it serves.

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