One year after South Sudan’s independence, health sector faces difficulties
Malteser International builds 35 new health care centres
Cologne. As South Sudan celebrates its first year of independence, Malteser International, the Order of Malta’s worldwide humanitarian aid service, reports significant progress in their work in the region, but also recognises the need for patience in its attempt to integrate health care services for more than a million people in its project region into the young country’s health structures.
New streets and bridges around the capital Juba may point to improvements in infrastructure, but progress in the health sector continues to lag far behind the country’s dire needs. “Diseases such as diarrhoea, tuberculosis and HIV continue to kill the population, because they lack access to basic health services”, says Wiltrud Gutsmiedl, South Sudan specialist at Malteser International. “Over the past weeks, an alarming number of children died of malaria, because neither medical staff nor the proper medicines were available.”
During South Sudan’s first year as an independent country, Malteser International worked to strengthen local health care structures in South Sudan’s Lakes and Western Equatoria states by building a total of 35 new health care centres equipped with latrines, wells and rainwater harvesting tanks in the Maridi and Rumbek regions. State health care employees received training in topics such as drug management and maternal and child health. Malteser International also ensured that health care personnel were paid regular salaries, and employed community health workers and traditional birth assistants in remote villages.
“There are workers in the health care centres and villages who are incredibly motivated, and who, despite all difficulties, work hard to get their job done”, says Gutsmiedl, who just returned from a project visit to the region. “These people are there for their patients every day, even if all they have are friendly words and some scarce supplies to treat wounds. Some of them haven’t been paid by the government for six months; others work as volunteers, without seeing so much as a cent. But they still feel responsible for their work”.
An example for Malteser International’s sustainable approach in the region is the Medical Laboratory Training School in Rumbek, which has trained more than 60 lab assistants and technicians since its founding in 2002 and currently enrols another 40 students. By developing a standardised curriculum and cooperating with the health authorities in the region, the organisation hopes to fully integrate the school into the state public health and education systems.
“One of our main priorities is to strengthen the existing structures so that we can transfer responsibility to our local partners step by step”, Gutsmiedl says. “Only then can we expect the South Sudanese to see this work as their own project and not as a gift without a trade-off”.
Malteser International has been active in South Sudan since 1997 and currently employs 120 local as well as 10 international staff members. Its projects count on the financial support of the Basic Services Fund of South Sudan, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Spanish government and private donations.
Attention editors: Wiltrud Gutsmiedl, senior desk officer for South Sudan at Malteser International, is available for interviews. Contact through Malteser International’s headquarters at +49 (0) 221 98 22-169.
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Reference: “South Sudan”
Malteser International is the worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta for humanitarian aid. The organisation provides aid in about 100 projects in more than 20 countries without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of impartiality and independence are the foundation of its work. For further information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int
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