The World Health Organization (WHO) met at the South Sudan National Health Summit with its (the WHO’s) various partners with over 500 participants coming to the meeting to discuss, and face, the challenges and opportunities that are potentially there for the “years ahead.”
The Republic of South Sudan’s Ministry of Health is the main partner with the World Health Organization in the subject area of challenges and opportunities for the years ahead. Some of the aims of the meeting will be new strategies and financing mechanisms being tied to political developments for the strengthening of the national health system.
However, there will be resource restrictions for the country and, therefore, for the ministry. The socioeconomic context of the country is fragile. And there are increased risks with the reduction in funding of communicable disease outbreaks in addition to malnutrition.
Also, there has been a famine with over 100,000 people facing starvation and another 1 million on the brink of famine. What is more, the average life expectancy for the country is, circa 2012, 55.
And the means of dying are far-ranging, and relatively common, which makes the importance of this summit even more clear.
These causes of death include: HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, acute respiratory infections, other infectious diseases, maternal, neonatal, nutritional cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, other NCDs, Suicide, homicide and conflict, and unintentional injuries.
The main purpose of the South Sudanese National Health Summit is to “build a resilient health system and obtain greater access to health services,” according to the WHO. The theme for the 5-day event is “Harnessing Strong Partnerships for a Resilient Health System towards attainment of Universal Health Coverage.”
The South Sudan Minister of Health, Dr. Riek Gai Kok, “convened the National Health Summit” in order to “foster understanding on South Sudan’s new National Health Policy (2016-2026).” The needs of the population in terms of humanitarian assistance have increased in a significant way. So there is impetus behind this.
The WHO representative to South Sudan, Dr. Abdulmumini Usman, said, “We are facing an immediate crisis from famine that requires immediate action by South Sudan’s health sector…However, the National Health Summit also must give a voice to all of the 12 million people in South Sudan because this is a country facing a myriad of health crises from conflict to disasters to disease outbreaks impacting everyone.”
According to the WHO report, there is a predicted Famine Response Strategy agreement amongst the partners and the WHO meeting at the summit. However, the report for the 5-day conference was on March 27, so the agreement should be reached, or not, by now.
Regardless, there are millions who require health services: “5.4 million people are in need of health services, including 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), 1.4 million refugees…WHO estimates that 12.3 million people in South Sudan are at risk due to disease outbreaks.”
Even with these critical cases in the millions, there have been significant signals as to some of the positive changes that have taken place within South Sudan for the Sudanese population with health risks.
For example, WHO provided support for a “nationwide vaccination campaign against polio for 3 million children under age 5, including in famine-affected areas…[and]a cholera vaccination campaign.”
Much of this includes training and educating practitioners for these campaigns. “Dr Helen Rees, WHO Chairperson for WHO’s Africa Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group,” acted as the chair for the National Health Summit.
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Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.