Leadership Development Helps to Improve Vaccination Services in South Sudan

Health care staff at Gurei Primary Health Care Center provide patients with drugs after attending their first Leadership Development Program (LDP) session. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Two years ago, the Gurei Primary Health Care Center (PHCC) in Juba, South Sudan was facing a number of operational challenges. In addition to needing a cold storage area for vaccinations, PHCC also had an insufficient number of trained vaccinators and morale was low among the available staff. Within the community they served, PHCC encountered many negative attitudes and incorrect ideas about vaccinations. Residents who brought their children to PHCC for care found that the needed vaccinations were only sporadically available. As a result, the number of children immunized in Juba remained low.

The Sudan Health Transformation Project, phase two (SHTP II) is funded by United States Agency for Development (USAID) and works to strengthen health facilities in South Sudan, such as Gurei PHCC. With support from Management Sciences for Health (MSH), SHTP II is helping to increase the demand for health services and the capacity of health care staff and facilities to then deliver those services. As a part of its capacity building initiatives, SHTP II supports health facilities to enroll their staff in a Leadership Development Program (LDP). The LDP helps to foster a sense of teamwork and unity so that employees learn how to view problems as solvable challenges and work cooperatively to identify and implement realistic solutions. Working in teams, program participants create measurable goals and objectives and then strategize to overcome barriers to success.

The health care staff at Gurei PHCC completed the LDP in May of 2011. As part of the training, Raile Antanasia, Lagu Martin and Amoko Benjamin worked together to evaluate the quality of services within their facility. Their analysis revealed that PHCC’s childhood vaccination services were not performing well. In response, the team first set targets to improve the number of children receiving the third dose of the diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT3) vaccine. They then solicited support from donors and managed to obtain a new solar fridge for vaccine storage from UNICEF. To support these efforts, SHTP II trained two staff members at PHCC to properly administer and record vaccinations. The LDP team then created a temporary vaccination room at the facility to handle the increased demand for services.

Six months after these interventions the number of children being vaccinate at Gurei PHCC had more than doubled. From May to November of 2010, only 1,725 children had received DPT3 but from May to November of 2011 Gurei logged more than 4,300 DPT3 vaccinations. Data from 2012 showed a sustained increase in these services with 1,718 children vaccinated in three months – nearly the same quantity which had been vaccinated over six months in 2011!

With support from SHTP II, health facilities across South Sudan are reporting gains like these at Gurei. The LDP is also helping to improve staff attitudes and motivate teams towards a united goal with measurable accomplishments. After years of working through emergency relief interventions, South Sudan’s health care system is gradually developing. LDP teams like those in Gurei report that they are proud and honored to be a part of this transformation.