Easing the burden of healthcare in South Sudan

Easing the burden of healthcare in South Sudan

Publication info


But the country still needs more facilities, more medicines, and more medical supplies

It’s a Tuesday morning and long lines of people are already gathering on the veranda of the Pariang Primary Health Care Centre, waiting for consultations with the medical staff. Many have walked for miles to reach the only county health facility in the area and they face the same long walk back home at the end of the day.

In addition to the local community, the outskirts of Pariang County, Unity state, are home to over 100,000 refugees, mainly from Sudan.  Access to medical services can be difficult in South Sudan, and walking long distances to seek treatment is all too common. Even before the conflict that engulfed the country in December 2013, it was estimated there were only 37 hospitals across the entire country. 

CARE assisted the Pariang County Health Department to rehabilitate this facility in 2014 with surgical equipment, medical supplies and the recruitment of additional qualified medical staff. Best of all, Pariang now has its own operating theatre.

In the past, difficult cases were referred to hospitals often as far away as Juba. But with the Pariang Primary Health Care Centre now able to perform surgery, the number of referrals has reduced.

The dangers associated with a long referral process are something 20 year old Nyakuma knows all too well. The young mother of twins had a still birth while being referred to a hospital in Juba two years ago. Nyakuma’s story is not uncommon. Many of South Sudan’s estimated 1,400 public health centres lack the capacity to deal with even minor surgical interventions. In Pariang at least, this is starting to change.

“Since we started surgical services we have narrowed the gap of referrals and the impacts of delay in patient’s referral,” said Doctor Joseph Justin, one of three doctors working at the Pariang clinic. “We now receive patients from other health facilities in other counties in Unity, especially surgery.” 

South Sudan’s conflict has further restricted access to basic health services, particularly reproductive health services which is putting women’s lives and the lives of their babies at risk.

CARE is supporting 20 county health facilities in Unity, one of the three states most affected by the conflict. Most of these facilities have remained open despite recent fighting and are helping provide life-saving assistance to women such as Nyakuma.

Although these facilities have greatly helped ease the burden of healthcare, South Sudan still needs more health facilities, more medicines and medical supplies. While the health centre at Pariang can now carry out surgery, it still lacks X-ray or scanning machines used to help diagnose and treat fractures and serious internal injuries.  

With more investment women would not have to walk such long distances to access to reproductive health services, and those like Nyakuma would be telling a different story.

© 2014 Josh Estey/CARE