South Sudan is recognised by the humanitarian community as a country in an emergency situation enduring a complex and protracted crisis, where continuing ethnic conflicts and catastrophic natural phenomena have a huge impact on local communities. Recent data show that out of a total of 12 million inhabitants, 8.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. In this context, many humanitarian workers are engaged in the emergency response. More than 200 international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are estimated to be registered in South Sudan.
“The work of organisations is essential to provide local communities with the means of subsistence and create opportunities for the future of the new generations” explains Simone Cerqui, Coordinator of the South Sudan Emergency Programs of the AICS Headquarters in Addis Ababa.
The work of the Italian NGOs OVCI and CBM in South Sudan is representative of this inclusive approach and the fundamental commitment of the many organisations in the country.
OVCI manages the only paediatric hospital in South Sudan
The Usratuna Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Juba, managed by the OVCI-La Nostra Famiglia organisation since 1983, is currently the only paediatric rehabilitation service in South Sudan. The rehabilitation center welcomes an average of 380 children per month for first visits and rehabilitation treatments, while the Primary Health Care Center receives an average of 370 mothers per month within the antenatal service. Both structures deal with the treatment and prevention of disability (infantile cerebral palsy, congenital malformations, hydrocephalus and spina bifida, motor disability, deafness, cognitive disabilities caused by under-nutrition).
OVCI-La Nostra Famiglia has always been able to build, with the support of the South Sudanese Ministry of Health, the main reference center for disability in the country and in the last two years, thanks to the contribution of AICS, it has been able to rebuild the central part of the structure. This success is important, not only from the medical side, but also for the social impact that the structure represents, favouring the inclusion of people with disabilities in South Sudanese civil society.
“For OVCI, the approach to the professional training of local health workers has always been important, as they are the cornerstones in a path of development cooperation”, adds Elena Roncoroni, country representative of OVCI.
“The OVCI approach is based on integration with the local community and institutions and is therefore able to reach the most vulnerable people in South Sudanese society” explains Simone Cerqui. “One of the examples of this approach also concerns the production of therapeutic foods (butter / peanut cream) that OVCI has entrusted to a group of women, in general the most neglected and poor in the country. This action has created small income-generating activities, through an approach in contrast to the trend in the nutrition sector in emergency contexts, which sees the purchase and import of super-nutrients from abroad by international organisations.”
Buluk Eye Center: the only ophthalmic hospital in South Sudan
The Buluk Eye Center Js (BEC) was created with the aim of reducing blindness in the State of Central Equatoria by providing functional and quality eye care services, both at the center and in schools and displaced camps in the capital.
The visual health projects entrusted to CBM Italia were carried out together with the government counterpart, the Ministry of Health of Central Equatoria; a common methodology for the organisation, which provides technical support and administrative management to local partners.
Thanks to the first AICS funding, in 2015, CBM transformed a generic health center into the only ophthalmic center in South Sudan, the BEC, capable of providing quality eye care services to the population of the State of Central Equatoria. Subsequently, through the project “BECause Eye Care: Strengthening of ophthalmological services in South Sudan” CBM has extended the ophthalmological services also in the two States of Western Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria with the provision of ophthalmological services in the hospitals of Torit and Lui and ” activity of mobile eye clinics throughout the country.
The relevance of the support that CBM provides to the Ministry of Health on health and visual pathologies is related to the fact that in South Sudan eye diseases are neglected by the national health system and the international community. Despite this, about 10% of people who go to hospitals managed by the Ministry of Health or international NGOs report eye diseases and problems (cataracts, infections, neglected tropical diseases), which are often not treated due to a lack of trained personnel and medicines.
Furthermore, updates and continuous training contribute to the excellence of the BEC, a reference point for the specialisation of medical staff, which accompanies the patient throughout the process: from the identification of vision disorders, to specialist visits, to surgical operations, to the distribution of glasses.
“Since its inception, the Buluk Eye Center has become a South Sudanese reference point for eye services. The operating room has grown stronger every year. Today it works at full capacity both for scheduled surgical operations and for emergencies, allowing 4 patients to operate at the same time. In the last 3 years of the project, 31,944 patients had access to ophthalmology services at the BEC, of which 6,108 received surgical interventions and 47 health professionals trained in specialist eye surgery ”concludes Massimo Maggio, Director of CBM Italia Onlus.
The Italian Cooperation, through CBM and the governmental counterpart, is the largest financier in South Sudan in the ocular health sector.