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.
During his visit to South Sudan, Dr Gabriel Novelo, WHO Technical Officer for the Global Health Cluster (left), helped with loading a shipment of medical supplies to Ganyel Primary Health Care Center in Panyijar County, Unity State.
“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.”
WHO/ J. Ebrahim
Dr David Lai, a Public Health Officer based in Juba, loads medical supplies onto a United Nations helicopter. WHO and partners seized on an opportunity to deliver 500kg of medical supplies, including kits for trauma care and anaesthesia to the remote Ganyiel Primary Health Care Center. The center has a capacity of 36 beds to serve more than 56 000 people. It is the only health facility in Panyijar County that offers Comprehensive Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care. Dr Lai is deployed by World Vision International to WHO through the NGO Consortium for the Global Health Cluster.
A clinical officer for the International Rescue Committee, a Global Health Cluster partner, meets with a client in one of the five Primary Health Care Centers in Bentiu Protection of Civilians site, that hosts some 120 000 people fleeing conflict in Unity State.
A health worker for International Rescue Committee, a Global Health Cluster partner, treats a patient at the Primary Health Care Center in the Bentiu Protection of Civilians Site.
Estimates find that South Sudan has one physician for 65 000 people and one midwife for 39 000 people.
Conflict and insecurity in South Sudan hinders the Health Cluster’s ability to effectively deliver health services across the country. The wreckage of an ambulance repeatedly attacked in Bentiu Hospital now sits immobilized beyond repair.
The intentional destruction of medical facilities has undermined the ability of Health Cluster partners to help people. All of the equipment and facilities at the Bentiu Hospital facility were deliberately destroyed in April of 2014, including this incubator intended to help premature newborn babies. The destruction of the Bentiu Hospital facility has meant that up to 900 000 people lost access to their main reference hospital in the state.
“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.
Dr Novelo also found many bright spots on his trip, including a rehabilitated health facility run by the International Rescue Committee, a Global Health Cluster partner. People waited to be seen for services such as primary health care, vaccination, nutrition and antenatal care services.
At a nutrition center run by Global Health Cluster partners, Concern Worldwide and UNICEF, a health worker helps a mother to weigh her child to check on the child’s nutrition levels.
WHO colleagues look on as a colleague from MAGNA, a non-governmental organization, and vaccination partner of UNICEF, describes the details of the vaccination registry in the Juba Protection of Civilians site.
“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.