Written by William Omwega
Leaders and people of all walks of life gathered in Juba on 9th July 2011 to witness the birth of the youngest nation in the world, South Sudan. Many people were sceptical that peace would prevail from 2005 when the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) was signed to mark the end of armed conflict in the country. Ultimately this led to the honouring of the final part of the agreement that created provision for secession or unity through a referendum. But over 98 percent of the people in Southern Sudan voted for separation in January 2011, a process that was very peaceful. All these developments have put the prophets of doom to shame; that the country is larger and far more important than any individual or any other interest.
As the dust settles down from celebrating independence, it is dawning that the young nation table is full of a ‘to do’ list that would see the country fast track development. The citizens remain very optimistic that the government will be able to deliver positive change after many years of suffering as a result of armed conflict in the country. The war led to loss of many lives, displacement of people, low literacy levels and poor access to health services.
Many health facilities were also bombed during the war and for the past 5 years or so there have been a deliberate effort to rehabilitate and rebuild these facilities in different parts of South Sudan. The needs of the new nation are many but efforts must be made to ensure that it remains a priority in the countries agenda. There are several emerging challenges in the world and many countries are currently devoting a lot of resources towards research and best technology in health care. This is evident by most African countries striving to comply with the Abuja Declaration adopted in 2001 that pushes for countries to allocate 15 percent of their national budget to health sector.
South Sudan has an extremely low level of skilled health workforce a situation that is further compounded by the proliferation of quacks who continue to endanger the lives of many patients who turn to them for lack of adequate health facilities and personnel. However it is reassuring to know that the Ministry of Health has formed the Medical Council that will check and regulate all the health workers who plan to work in the country to ensure that they are qualified and competent enough to discharge their duties in various areas of health care.
The leaders too have a moral obligation of ensuring that delivery of quality health services becomes a fundamental right of every citizen of South Sudan. This will ultimately lead to a significant drop in the unacceptable high infant and maternal mortality rates witnessed in the country. This means that the government has to allocate more budget to health so that more health facilities can be built, equipped, and more health workers trained to ensure that basic health care services are readily available and accessible to all.
Efforts should be stepped up to increase awareness on preventable diseases that continue to stalk the masses. This will go a long way in preventing and controlling many communicable diseases that are rampant in the country. This will lead to a healthy nation that will be able to ultimately realise its dreams of prosperity.