Safeguarding Access to Medicines Amid Violence, Political Turmoil in South Sudan

Safeguarding Access to Medicines Amid Violence, Political Turmoil in South Sudan

 {Photo credit: Dominic Chavez}South Sudan.Photo credit: Dominic Chavez

In December 2013, Africa’s newest country, South Sudan, imploded with violence between government forces and a rebel opposition led by a former vice president. The violence continues today despite regional efforts at reconciliation by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and other state actors. The war, however, has not stopped South Sudan’s frontline health workers in their efforts to build a public health system, including access to medicines, from the ground up.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program is working with our South Sudanese partners to build the institutional, technical, and organizational capacity of the country’s health system—despite the ongoing conflict.

Our approach to strengthening the health system is based around the concept of embedment—where full-time technical advisors work with their South Sudanese counterparts on a day-to-day basis. This approach strengthens the technical and managerial capacity of local leaders, ensuring sustainability, while, at the same time, getting the job done: building a strong health system.

In South Sudan, the pharmaceutical sector relies on multiple vertical supply chains supported by different donors. Systems overlap and inefficiencies are a common challenge among countries that depend upon large amounts of foreign aid. To address the potential duplication, SIAPS, working with our South Sudanese counterparts in the Ministry of Health and at the state and county levels, conducted a mapping exercise to identify partners and their roles in the supply chain. The mapping led to better coordination and planning for the supply chain, which increased peoples’ access to essential medicines.  

SIAPS also is providing technical support for storage management; information for decision making; quantification of essential commodities; and governance of the pharmaceutical sector.

Working in a conflict area is not easy. Disruption of public services, mass displacement of the population, economic collapse and political uncertainty are our constant companions. Yet, we know that under these conditions, the needs of the South Sudanese people, formidable in the best of times, are even greater.  The dedication and commitment of our staff and our South Sudanese counterparts inspire us to move forward in our work, despite the daily calamities.

The people of South Sudan have not let go of the promise they felt when, after decades of war, South Sudan raised the flag of an independent African state. The problems today are but an unfortunate stumble on the road towards democracy and economic prosperity. SIAPS will continue to work with our South Sudanese partners to build the kind of health system the people of South Sudan deserve.