Juba, South Sudan,
July 06, 2021 – Neglected and underfunded, South Sudan’s health sector has failed to deliver basic health services to the citizens a decade after the country’s independence.
In May, Nyamilepedia did an investigative piece on the state of the Juba Teaching Hospital, the country’s biggest public health center drawing patients from the ten states across the country.
From an under-staffed medical laboratory, a lack of medicines, and frustrated unpaid workers, to patients and women in labor dying as a result of negligence, we analyzed the harrowing state of the hospital. In case you missed it, you can read the report here.
As the country heads towards independence, there remained no sign things could improve so soon. Reports on the bad state of the hospital keep propping.
Medical experts who were quoted in a recently-published report seen by Nyamilepedia give accounts of their personal experience ranging from underfunding of the health sector to the security and safety of health workers.
Dr. Bol Deng is the secretary-general of the South Sudan Doctors’ Union. The medical expert laments the lack of sufficient funding, which has haunted the country’s health sector, not just after 2011 but since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.
“This is too small even to cover the components of quality health services that we need,” he said, referring to the local health facility. “What you see now is the part of this health financing covered by NGOs (non-governmental organizations).”
The dire situation, according to Dr. Deng, has forced many competent and professional health workers to quit government hospitals in search of greener pastures.
“The majority of health workers are leaving work in public hospitals or public health facilities to work with NGOs as humanitarians, or to work in private companies or private hospitals, so this is affecting our public health facilities serving the majority of the people,” he told VOA.
Anita Peter, a health worker in Central Equatoria State’s Yei County worries about insecurity.
“You want to deliver the services, but you think of your life — what should I do with my life?” she was quoted to have said. “Now I am sacrificing my life. If you are just on the road, you will just give your life to God.”
International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson Lucien Christen said insecurity in South Sudan has led to a drastic drop in the number of functional health centers as attacks against aid workers remained rampant.
The spokesperson said for patients with fractures life will be even more difficult after discharge from the hospital as they “will continue to need extensive physical and psychosocial support as they adjust to the life-changing impact of living with a disability.”
Christen said it takes the efforts of both humanitarian organizations and national authorities to build a resilient community capable of absorbing health shocks.
“Humanitarian organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, together with authorities, have a critical role to play in building the resilience and capability of communities to face these shocks,” he said.
“Across South Sudan, vulnerable persons continue to die from curable diseases or wounds, as access to health care remains very limited. Nine percent of children die before the age of 5,” Christen added.
Joseph Gama, an official from HealthLink South Sudan, a humanitarian organization, says poor infrastructure blights efforts to transport patients for critical treatment in times of emergency.
“This is happening, (because of) the poor road conditions and lack of ambulance services in some remote areas. Especially mothers die due to such delays. They cannot reach facilities within the required time,” he said adding that it is a countrywide problem.