South Sudan, 8 July 2011: On the eve of independence, the Government and UNICEF inaugurate a new ward at the country’s only children’s hospital
JUBA, 8 July 2011 - The opening of a new ward at a children’s hospital marks a small step towards tackling the daunting challenges facing public health officials in South Sudan, two days before the birth of the world’s newest nation.
“This is a very good beginning to the celebration for our independence,” said Dr. Emmanuel Baya, State Minister of Health for Central Equatorial State, during the official inauguration of the new 28-bed ward on Thursday at the Al Sabbah Children’s Hospital in the capital, Juba.
Established by the Kuwaiti government in 1983, the hospital remains the only specialist facility treating children in southern Sudan. In recent years, the hospital has undergone extensive renovation, with funding from UNICEF, the African Union and other donors.
Children suffering from malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea make up the majority of the patients. With 100 beds now available including the new ward, the hospital also treats up to 150 outpatients daily.
Building up the public health system – decimated by long years of conflict, neglect and under-investment – will be a top priority for the government in the world’s newest country.
The federal health minister, Dr. Luka Monoja, said that the lack of physical infrastructure and an equally severe shortage of skilled human resources were the principal challenges facing the government.
UNICEF Director of South Sudan, Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, said the expanded children’s hospital would also fulfil a vital teaching function, training community-level health workers, mothers and caregivers in simple but effective methods of improving children’s health.
“That’s where we have to continue supporting South Sudan, just in making the basics move forward, to make sure all children are fully immunized, to make sure all children are able to sleep under bed-nets, that they have access to safe water and sanitation and don’t face the risk of severe malnutrition.”
Dr. Haque added: “This is just one hospital in this huge area of South Sudan and it’s very important that we’re able to demonstrate that (effective childcare) is possible, even in more far-flung areas where it’s needed the most.
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