Greater Upper Nile, Southern Sudan: Emergency health care must remain a priority

People with health needs today simply cannot wait for a time when there is a functioning health care system with enough medical facilities and sufficiently trained staff.

More than three years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005, medical needs remain critical, and simmering tensions create a precarious security situation. The 21-year civil conflict killed 2 million people and forced more than 4 million from their homes, according to U.N. estimates. Three years later however, the health situation of the populations of southern Sudan is still dire with high levels of mortality and morbidity; humanitarian aid still needed.

A viable health system for southern Sudan's estimated 8 million people will take years and significant investment, while acute health needs will still need to be met. Slow release of longer-term development funds hamper the maintenance and development of the poor existing health structures. The remaining emergency medical organizations therefore are shouldering an impossible burden trying to meet basic health needs. Today, MSF health facilities in Greater Upper Nile are functioning at maximum capacity.

•People continue to die from preventable diseases or curable conditions because of the shortage of clinics, trained medical staff and medicines.

•The end of the war did lead to a degree of stability that has enabled many refugees and displaced to return to their homes and begin rebuilding their lives. But this political stability is fragile as the root causes of the war are still unresolved. Tensions remain and the threat of conflict reigniting is a real concern, particularly in relation to the contested border areas (including Abyei and the oil fields of Unity and Upper Nile States) as well as disputes over shares in oil revenues, redeployment of troops and resources for the pending census.

•Acute malnutrition is above the emergency threshold levels defined by the World Health Organisation. When a similar rate was detected in the Darfur region, the United Nations raised several alarms. Unfortunately, the rates found in southern Sudan caused little outcry.

•Food shortage in southern Sudan as some 1,2 million return home. Floods have destroyed parts of the current and previous harvests, and fields lie fallow because of the presence of unexploded ordinances, further decreasing food availability in the area. The return of IDPs and refugees following the peace agreement has also increased the pressure on already-scarce food stocks. Food prices in the market have risen noticeably, threatening to deteriorate this situation further.

•Maternal mortality in southern Sudan is one of the highest in the world – with 2,053 maternal deaths for 100,000 live births. This rate is four times higher than for northern Sudan, twice as high as the Darfur region and 300 times higher than the Netherlands with 7 maternal deaths for 100,000 live births.

"A girl is more likely to die in childbirth than she is to finish primary school in southern Sudan today." Vanessa van Schoor, Operations Manager for Southern Sudan


   Greater Upper Nile, Southern Sudan:
Immediate health needs remain amid a precarious peace
 Video: "Dying in Peace" The ongoing emergency in Southern Sudan