This is part of a series of stories marking the 10th anniversary of South Sudan’s independence.
As South Sudan celebrates 10 years of independence, health workers and officials say the health care situation in the world’s newest country remains woefully inadequate. Facilities are scarce and often inaccessible, they say, and violence continues to affect healthcare workers and communities.
Health officials say these deficits are largely due to insufficient government funding that has persisted since the country’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Dr Bol Deng, secretary general of the Union of Physicians of South Sudan, said the situation had been worsened by continued budget cuts, amplified by the decline in the country’s healthcare allocation over the course of fiscal year 2019-2020 to 525 million South Sudanese pounds from 1.7 billion pounds the previous year.
“It’s too small even to cover the components of quality health services that we need,” South Sudan’s Deng told Focus. “What you are seeing now is how much of this health funding is covered by NGOs (non-governmental organizations).” NGOs cover an important part of health care in South Sudan.
Deng says this continued underfunding has demoralized health workers and caused deteriorating working conditions in hospitals and clinics across the country.
“The majority of health workers leave work in public hospitals or public health facilities to work with NGOs as humanitarian workers, or to work in private companies or private hospitals, so this affects our health facilities. public serving the majority of the population, ”Deng said. said VOA.
He added that the government was also not listening to the doctors’ union calls for better wages and working conditions.
Government funding gaps have placed much of the financial burden on local and international NGOs, which also have tight budgets.
In addition, health workers say they are hampered by violence between government and rebel forces, conflicts between ethnic communities and lawlessness caused by cattle rustling.
This instability affects Anita Peter, a health worker in Yei County, central Equatoria state. “You want to provide the services, but you are thinking about your life – what should I do with my life? ” she said. “Now I’m sacrificing my life. If you’re right on the road, you’ll just give your life to God.”
Spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Lucien Christen, told VOA that attacks on medical personnel and medical facilities had created a “dire situation” in South Sudan. These attacks have increased in the past two months as at least two aid workers were killed in May alone. They are frequently threatened, beaten and tortured.
As hundreds of people are killed and injured every year across the country, authorities and communities must work together to build key infrastructure to ensure the availability of essential services, Christen said. “Only 40% of health centers in South Sudan remain functional, according to the UN,” he added.
People who have been injured and others affected by violence “will continue to need significant physical and psychosocial support to adjust to the impact of living with a life-changing disability,” said Christen at VOA.
“Humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as the authorities, have an essential role to play in strengthening the resilience and capacity of communities to cope with these shocks,” he said. added.
Health care access
Access to health care is also a barrier. Many people walk several hours or even days to reach a doctor, according to Christen.
“Throughout South Sudan, vulnerable people continue to die from treatable illnesses or injuries, as access to health care remains severely limited. Nine percent of children die before the age of 5, ”Christen told South Sudan in Focus.
World Bank 2019 data for children under 5 shows South Sudan recorded 96 deaths per 1,000 live births, placing the country in the top seven countries with the highest infant mortality rates in the world. world.
Joseph Gama of Health Link South Sudan, a humanitarian organization, observes how the lack of adequate infrastructure in the countryside makes it difficult to access and transport patients.
“This is happening (because of) poor road conditions and the lack of ambulance services in some remote areas. Mothers in particular are dying because of such delays. They cannot reach the facilities within the time required,” did he declare.
Gama says the referral system needs to be improved so patients can quickly see the specialists needed to treat them. “All over the country, there are SEO difficulties.
Meanwhile, many people in South Sudan have to access and obtain medical care on their own.
David Ladu, 38, from Yambio had broken his hand three months ago, and after initial treatment at Yambio hospital, he was transferred to a facility in the capital, Juba. Ladu said he had to pay 30,000 South Sudanese pounds out of his own pocket to get, along with a guard, to Juba hospital, 355 kilometers away. This sum would represent about six months of salary for a teacher or a nurse.
He also laments the massive personal costs of drugs and treatments.
“The bill for all of these drugs is over £ 200,000,” he said, in addition to the £ 120,000 he paid for his operation.
“My family receives contributions from relatives, friends and charitable people who come to visit me here. If alone, I couldn’t handle the medical bills.
Health Ministry Under Secretary Dr Mayen Machut Achiek did not respond to repeated calls and texts asking the government for the government’s perspective on the challenges facing health workers as well as the government’s plans to improve service delivery in the health sector.