Prosperous health and well being are the backbone of a progressive society. Unfortunately, countless people in the developing world struggle to access affordable and effective healthcare. South Sudan is an Eastern African country riddled in an ongoing ethnic conflict. In addition, it is one of the hardest-hit nations on the issue of healthcare.
So far, South Sudan has dealt with over 3,500 cases of COVID-19. While that number may seem small, it’s astronomical for a country with such sparse medical supplies and trained personnel.
Thankfully, South Sudan has been working with the international community for the past couple of years. They are working to bolster its progress toward better healthcare, otherwise known as Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3). As outlined by the United Nations Development Programme, the SDGs are a set of benchmarks to help developing nations overcome structural poverty. The third goal, good health and well-being, focuses on resolving “account widening economic and social inequalities, rapid urbanization, threats to the climate and the environment, the continuing burden of HIV and other infectious diseases and emerging challenges such as non-communicable diseases.” The fundamental goal of SDG 3 is universal healthcare.
Out of the 1.6 billion people worldwide who lack sound healthcare systems, a portion lives in South Sudan. Thus, it is important to understand and explore the implications of SDG 3 in South Sudan.
As part of Sustainable Development Goal 3, South Sudan has been working with international partners to implement a new universal healthcare system. In 2018, the South Sudanese Ministry of Health (MoH) announced it would be working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners on the Boma Health Initiative (BHI). The BHI will deliver healthcare packages to communities for no charge. It will also place an extra focus on those living in hard-to-reach rural areas.
The program came out to address SDG 3 and the country’s lack of access to healthcare services. As of 2018, “only 44% of the population [is] living within a 5-kilometer radius of a health facility.”
So far, the WHO and South Sudanese MoH are still debating the costs and budget gaps to finance the program. These debates especially focus on maternal care. Fortunately, policymakers have the 40-year-old primary healthcare system to build off of. With the said system in place, the WHO and South Sudanese officials focus on critical areas of healthcare disparities. They want to ensure the universal system will be efficient and effective once it rolls out.
However, with the recent pandemic, South Sudan’s MoH and other officials have focused on the response to COVID-19. So far, they have made substantial progress. In May 2020, South Sudan successfully trained over 100 health workers on “COVID-19 case management and infection prevention and control.” Participants were said to have “knowledge and skills on patient screening, isolation, contact tracing, use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and waste management.” The rapid increase in health management training is especially helpful to expand contract tracing and to limit the severity of COVID-19 in at-risk communities.
Additionally, The South Sudanese MoH recently partnered with the World Food Programme and the International Medical Corps to expand infectious disease units. The initiative has equipped South Sudanese hospitals with a “new 82-bed capacity treatment unit [with] a temperature-controlled dispensing pharmacy and a fully equipped laundry to boost infection prevention and control.”
Aid From Other Countries
Moreover, to ensure long-term success for SDG 3, South Sudan is partnering with other countries to improve its health infrastructure. For instance, CARE, an international non-profit, received part of a $2 million grant to “strengthen healthcare infrastructure through preparedness, surveillance and response; empower, train and educate local women leaders, including community health workers; and increase water, sanitation, and hygiene support.” Furthermore, CARE is also coordinating with the Sudanese Education and Health Ministries. Their goal is to expand medical education in local communities and fight off misinformation.
In addition, the U.S. recently announced a $108 million aid package for South Sudan to develop more advanced health infrastructural systems.
From targeted efforts from international organizations like the WHO to non-profits and world superpowers like the U.S. donating aid, the world is gradually taking action. South Sudan is facing its darkest hour and limited healthcare options. Therefore, the international community must continue its efforts to help South Sudan realize its goal.
– Juliette Reyes