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Rebuilding South Sudan's Shattered Health Services

BMJ 


Peter Moszynski London
24 July 2005 


A conference on rebuilding South Sudan's shattered health services was held in London July 14-15. Organised by the British & American Friends of Southern Sudan, the symposium, held at Imperial College Medical School, came at a crucial time: immediately following 9 July's formation of Sudan's new Government of National Unity and parallel, semi-autonomous government of South Sudan, ending Africa's longest conflict.
Conference organiser Prof M. E. Baraka, FRCSI, told BMJ: The Southern Sudan Government must show strong political leadership to avert epidemics such as Malaria, HIV/AIDs etc. Priorities are to be given to tropical and preventive medicine, and especially the daunting challenges to eradicate typhoid, tetanus, whooping cough, TB, polio and measles in children.

Southern Sudan is about one third of Sudan's total territory, with a population of 9 million. This population is served by only 80 doctors and less than 600 nurses, whilst millions of returning refugees also require special attention, Prof Baraka explained. We are asking interested experts to help in making life better for these people.

A number of eminent persons, including interim health ministers from Sudan's new Government of National Unity and Government of South Sudan, were present and heard a range of presentations on rehabilitating a region with the world's worst health indicators.
Several speakers commented on the urban bias of Sudan's existing health service, which was widely held to be over-served with specialists and had too few general practitioners: Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians was how one described it.

Among the many thoughtful interventions from the floor was an impassioned plea for more assistance for long term psycho-social rehabilitation of war-affected youths by former child soldier-turned star of Live 8/Africa Calling, Emmanuel Jal, currently an African spokesman for Save the Children Fund.

Whilst reconstruction needs for the devastated health system are immense, other pressing challenges remain: emergency aid delivery and funding are dangerously insufficient. Last 
month UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned a billion dollar shortfall in contributions could see the peace process derailed by hunger : "If we fail to respond to these challenges now, the political consequences could haunt us for many years. Most worryingly, the main hope for peace in Sudan as a whole - the Comprehensive Peace Agreement - could be placed in serious jeopardy July 5's UN Sudan Situation Report indicates "global malnutrition rates in Wau [northern Bahr el-Ghazal] have increased from 12.5 % in March 2004 to 13.1% in April 2005 and Severe Acute Malnutrition increased from 2.4 to 2.7% over the same period. The worst situation was recorded in the Eastern Bank camps where GAM rose from 16.7 to 25%, and SAM from 3 to 3.8% over the same period."

More details and conference proceedings available from BAFOSS at baraka@btinternet.com

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