Following the Sudanese civil war, the Republic of South Sudan became an independent nation in July 2011. As of 2020, the Republic of South Sudan has a population of over 11 million people and comprises 10 states and three administrative areas. Due to Sudan’s particularly challenging circumstances, access to healthcare in South Sudan remains dangerously low. Here are some of the challenges that the international effort to provide healthcare in South Sudan faces.
5 Essential Facts About Healthcare in South Sudan
- Healthcare in South Sudan is in recovery mode. The Sudanese Civil War created personnel shortages and destroyed infrastructure. South Sudan has just one physician per 65,574 individuals and one midwife per 39,088 population individuals. Overall, South Sudan reports just one-tenth of the number of medical doctors and nurses in comparison to countries such as Kenya.
- Inequitable distribution of healthcare workers exists among the states of South Sudan. For example, the state of Central Equatoria has the highest number of healthcare workers out of all of South Sudan’s provinces. There is also an urban-rural divide, with more resources existing in urban areas despite the majority of the population living in rural areas. Meanwhile, the situation in northern regions is particularly difficult due to their widespread devastation during the Sudanese Civil War.
- South Sudan lacks a federal retention policy for healthcare professionals. Within the healthcare field, the country suffers from a high turnover of personnel. Poor health, insufficient workforce management, low wages and a general lack of proper supervision all contribute to burnout and rotation of healthcare professionals. Moreover, no formal system for the regulation of healthcare workers exists at the state level. On the federal level, there is no legal framework in place to guide critically important midwifery practices.
- South Sudan has an unusually high number of physical disabilities in its population. As the result of both the lingering effects of war and an inadequate healthcare system, an estimated 50,000 individuals suffer from some form of severe physical disability in South Sudan.
- Preventable conditions plague South Sudan. Nearly 75% of all child deaths in South Sudan are due to preventable conditions such as diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia. The prevalence of these and other deadly conditions are major factors in South Sudan’s high infant mortality rates, with 96 infant deaths per 1,000 births.
While South Sudanese healthcare is unable to address the needs of the population, South Sudan is making significant strides to increase access to and quality of healthcare. Despite the aforementioned difficulties, improvements such as the creation of a Health Care Sector Development Plan that emphasizes the creation of jobs in the healthcare professions and gives hope for the future of healthcare in South Sudan.
Moreover, the government in South Sudan has begun to work with private, international organizations to bring aid to its citizens. One example is the government’s partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide healthcare facilities, such as the Malakal Teaching Hospital, and help deliver on-the-job training to hospital staff across the country. While the ICRC began its work in Sudan in 1986, operations have expanded rapidly in recent years. Organizations such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) are working alongside the Red Cross in South Sudan to expand the scope of medical care. UNICEF alone conducted medical consultations for more than 285,000 people in the early months of 2020.
It appears that both the scope and quality of healthcare in South Sudan are improving, albeit gradually. One can partly attribute this improvement to the international community. War-torn countries like South Sudan are dependent on foreign aid to revitalize critical infrastructural systems, such as healthcare. In February 2020, the United States sent more than $900 million to combat the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. The continuation of these funds is integral to the successful revitalization of South Sudan’s healthcare system. Without widespread medical care, the possibility of a major humanitarian crisis in South Sudan threatens regional stability.
– Kendall Carll