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South Sudan and UNICEF inaugurate a new ward at the country’s only children’s hospital

© UNICEF Sudan/2011/Ashleigh
Mother Regina cuddles her daughter Sunday at the UNICEF-supported Al Sabbah Children’s Hospital in Juba, South Sudan.

By Simon Ingram

JUBA, South Sudan, 8 July 2011 - As South Sudan prepares for its independence, the opening of a new ward at a children’s hospital marks a small but significant step towards tackling the daunting challenges facing public health officials in the region.

“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.

A new lifeline

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.

© UNICEF Sudan/2011/Ashleigh
Mother Konga Scobia sits with her son Domonic Doko inside the ward for children suffering from malnutrition at Al Sabbah Children's Hospital.

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.

Tough road ahead

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 Sudan/2011/Ashleigh
Dr. Emmanuel Baya, State Minister of Health for Central Equatorial State in South Sudan, UNICEF Director of South Sudan Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque and Dr. Justin Bruno, head of Al Sabbah Children’s Hospital, tour the hospital grounds at the launch of the new ward in Juba.

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 emphasised that this was only a first step, a lot more needs to be done to support the children of South Sudan “ It’s very important that we’re able to demonstrate that [effective child care] is possible, even in more far-flung areas where it’s needed the most.”



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