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CARE Calls For Health System to be at Heart of Humanitarian Response in South Sudan

© 2014 Josh Estey/CARE
© 2014 Josh Estey/CARE

A year ago, South Sudan’s frail healthcare system was struggling. One year on from the conflict that began on December 15 last year, the diagnosis has become critical.

JUBA (December 12, 2014) – CARE, one of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations, released a new report examining South Sudan’s health system, marking the one-year anniversary of the conflict that has ravaged the world’s newest country. CARE’s new health paper – Critical Diagnosis: The Case for Placing South Sudan’s Healthcare System at the Heart of the Humanitarian Response – argues that the local health system should be the focus of humanitarian health interventions, bringing together humanitarian actors and local health workers to save lives in the short-term emergency response, help to build longer-term resilience and best serve the needs of the South Sudanese people.

Throughout 2014, despite on-going fighting and difficult conditions, humanitarian agencies, including CARE, have saved thousands of lives by vaccinating children, digging latrines, providing nutrition supplements, delivering antenatal care to new mothers, providing emergency medical assistance, running clean-up campaigns, distributing food, seeds and fishing tools, and ensuring that people have clean water.

“But the humanitarian response alone can’t overcome the structural issues that plague the provision of basic services in South Sudan,” said Aimee Ansari, CARE’s Country Director in South Sudan. “Strengthening fragile health systems now will ensure better responsiveness in the future, no matter what the emergency.”

“Current humanitarian funding in South Sudan focuses on quick fixes rather than investment that has more potential to last. We can do a lot more, if donors and others combine emergency and development assistance, to build a local healthcare system that can serve the people of South Sudan for generations to come,” Ms. Ansari said.

“Disease, hunger, and the effects of displacement, cause more deaths in conflict in low income countries than guns and bullets. South Sudan is no different,” said Grace Saita, CARE’s Health Advisor in South Sudan. “Simple measures, such as integrating nutrition programming, doing more community outreach, empowering village health committees, and tailoring health care so it suits the unique situation of each location, will make for a stronger health system.”

South Sudan’s health statistics are staggering, even before the crisis began: one in seven mothers died from pregnancy and birth-related complications, only 4.8 percent of women utilize antenatal care, and 80 percent of women give birth at home. Roughly 37 hospitals serve an estimated population of 11 million.

But the health system and its ability to respond to the needs of the people cannot sit in isolation from the wider crisis that has been impacting the country since 15 December 2013. As long as the conflict remains unresolved, people will suffer and die from preventable diseases, complications arising from malnutrition and hunger, and from widespread sexual and gender based violence. CARE calls on all parties to end the violence and establish a lasting peace.

About CARE in South Sudan:

Since the outbreak of violence in December 2013, an estimated 1.9 million people have been displaced from their homes and communities, and an estimated 474,000 people have crossed into neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda in search of food and to escape violence. CARE is providing emergency water, sanitation, hygiene services and promotion in addition to nutrition and livelihoods assistance.

CARE also supports over 40 health facilities in Unity and Jonglei States, two of the states most heavily affected by fighting. CARE has been operating in Southern Sudan since 1993, initially providing humanitarian relief to internally displaced people in Western Equatoria. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 allowed CARE to expand within Jonglei and Upper Nile States to support returnees from the refugee camps, and the organization has since broadened its operations to include development programs.

Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters.

For media interviews with S. Sudan based staff please contact Nicole Harris, 404-735-0871, nharris@care.org.

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