Health care in a box

Distribution of essential medical supplies is essential for improving access to health care

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
Medical supplies in a box
20 May 2020


It may seem obvious, but medicines are an essential part of health care. Yet, children in South Sudan are dying from conditions modern medicine can tackle. The top three causes of morbidity among children under five years of age in the country is malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia- all treatable if you have the right medicine.


Medicines in a box
Medicines and medical supplies ready to be dispatched to Maban.


A critical element of the “Provision of Essential Health Services Project” in Jonglei and Upper Nile, is delivery of medicines and essential medical supplies. Being able to treat common conditions have two purposes; 1) making people healthy again in order for children and their families to live productive lives, 2) having a positive experience with seeking health care to increase the demand for health services.

Jonglei and Upper Nile states are some of the areas hardest hit by the conflict in South Sudan. Not only has the civil war destroyed infrastructure and killed health workers, it has also affected people's health seeking behavior. If you don't get help when you reach the health facility, often after hours of walking, then there is no point in making the journey.


A man carrying boxes with medical supplies
Boxes with medicines are carried to the awaiting truck.


Upper Nile and Jonglei states include some of the hardest to reach areas in South Sudan. The country is large, actually the size of France, but with just under 200 kilometres of paved roads. The rest are dirt roads, out of which 60 per cent becomes impassable during the wet season which is between May and November. Some of the health facilities in the two states are only reachable through air.




a man loading a box onto a truck
A man is loading one of many boxes with medical supplies onto the truck which will take the boxes to the airport.


But first, the supplies must be moved from the temperature controlled warehouse in the capital Juba. The warehouse has a stable temperature for the medicines to maintain their quality. Then, the drugs and other commodities are placed in boxes based on the needs of each health facility. The boxes are loaded onto a truck which will take the cargo to the airport.


A man is loading boxes onto a scale
A man is loading boxes onto a scale before loading the boxes onto the plane


At the airport, the cargo is weighed to ensure the total weight is not exceeding the aircraft's limits. Then the boxes are carried onboard. The process is quite labor intensive and require a good number of strong arms.


A man carrying a box inside the plane
Boxes with medical supplies and medicines are carried onboard.


Soon, the plane is bound for Maban with the belly full of essential medical supplies and medicines, which will save lives and improve the health and well-being of children and their families. 

The “Provision of Essential Health Services Project” in Jonglei and Upper Nile is carried out in partnership with the World Bank.