In May 2022, Amref Health Africa commemorated its 50th anniversary in South Sudan. To celebrate milestones achieved in the last 50 years of developing and strengthening South Sudan’s health care system, Amref hosted an evening cocktail on 11th May 2022 – an event that brought together government officials, development partners, Amref’s top leadership and select programme beneficiaries.
Amref’s work in the Southern region of Sudan dates back to 1972 when a first survey was carried at the urgent request of the government of South Sudan to support the planning of reconstruction of the health services after peace had been restored in the country. Some of the first interventions included assisting the Ministry of Health in the Southern Region of Sudan in the pre-implementation phase of their Primary Health Care Project. This programme involved the training of 800 community health workers (CHWs) deployed to new primary health care units built in each village.
For the last 50 years, Amref’s focus on stabilisation of South Sudan’s health systems has served as a catalyst for restoring health system foundations, testing approaches before scale-up, and laying the groundwork for further progress toward universal health coverage (UHC) and the health-related sustainable development goals (SDGs).
While speaking at the event, Morrish Ojuok, the Amref South Sudan Country Manager said,” Amref has played a key role in promoting access to health care in South Sudan through training and direct service delivery. Amref prides itself for having developed the curriculum for CHWs to train tutors for new schools that would, in turn, train the CHWs.” He added that through partnerships with the government, the first four Community Health Workers (CHW) schools were opened in the Southern Region at Lirangu, Rejaf, Geogrial, and Doleib Hill. From the schools, a total of 80 students started training using manuals developed by Amref.
On his part, Dr Githinji Gitahi, the Amref Group CEO lauded the support of the South Sudan government and made a commitment to work together in promoting health care in the country through training at the Maridi Institute saying, “we pledge to support needy students from South Sudan, especially persons with disabilities through the Maridi Institute and Amref International University for the development of a stronger health workforce in the country.
He also emphasized Amref’s priority on gender equity by providing equal opportunities to both boys and girls in Amref’s initiatives. “Girl education is at the centre of our work, alongside boy education. It does not only deliver an educated population but also a healthy one,” said Dr Gitahi.
While it was critical to celebrate the work done, he urged the stakeholders to focus on the future of Amref’s work in the country, “I stand here not to celebrate the last 50 years of Amref in South Sudan, but a new birth of another 50 years of empowering local communities in South Sudan.”
From the event, it was clear that Amref had made a lasting impact in the lives of many citizens of South Sudan. As Doris Lamunu, Chairperson of the South Sudan Nurses Association, highlighted, “our story with Amref is a long one. South Sudan’s health systems have changed. Many health workers and midwives working in South Sudan today have been trained by Amref.” “I was trained by Amref, mentored by Amref, worked for Amref and I am still supporting Amref.”
Hon Michael Ladu Allahjabu, Mayor of Juba City Council reiterated the significant contribution of Amref in South Sudan and welcomed Amref to invest more in the country. Dr Victoria Anib, the Undersecretary Ministry of Health also thanked Amref for its continued support to the Ministry of Health. “We have come a long way from having only 10 mid-wives in 2010 to over 1000 in the country – thanks to the partnerships with Amref,” she said.
Amref’s senior leadership also paid courtesy calls to various senior government officials including Governor Emmanuel Adil Anthony, Dr Victoria Anib, among other dignitaries. During the visit to the State Government Secretariat, Dr Gitahi affirmed Amref’s readiness to partner with the State Government through the State Ministry of Health to strengthen and empower health workers with tailored training aimed at enhancing their practical skills in delivering professional services within the health sector.
On the other hand, Governor Emmanuel Adil Anthony acknowledged the tremendous work done by Amref, especially in service to humanity since its inception and called for continuous cooperation in supplementing the State Government’s Strategic Health Focus following the destroyed health structures across the state. Governor Adil also appealed for more support in capacity building of the health workers across the State to enhance the delivery of health services.
Also, in attendance were the State Ministers of Cabinet Affairs, Hon Wayi Goodwil Edward, Information and Communication – Hon Andruga Mabe, and Health – Hon Nejua Mursal.