South Sudan's first blood bank and public health laboratories established in Juba
South Sudan’s first Blood Bank and the National and Regional Public Health Laboratories were launched in Juba on 8 July, coinciding with the country’s third independence anniversary. The facilities were established by UNDP through the Global fund, at the total cost of $1.5m, to strengthen the country’s overall health system. The Global Fund, through UNDP has already committed an additional fund for the completion of interior works of the TB and HIV laboratories.
It is expected that the labs will significantly improve the country’s diagnosis and disease surveillance for HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, tropical diseases and epidemic diseases such as cholera. The facilities have been established especially with the aim of serving the most vulnerable and marginalized communities who cannot afford costly treatment outside their country.
During the inaugural ceremony, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan stated, “I would like to thank all the partners who made this venture possible. Without strengthening the health services, the country will lag behind in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, especially the goal on maternal mortality which is very high in South Sudan.”
The Minister for Health Hon. Dr. Riek Gai Kok stated, “With the blood bank and laboratory facilities, we hope to provide the South Sudanese people a better access to health services. There will be no need to refer our patients and send blood samples to neighbouring countries for diagnosis of common diseases. We are now better equipped to save the lives of mothers giving birth to children or people in need of immediate blood transfusion.”
UNDP Country Director a.i. Mr. Mulugeta Abebe in his remarks stated, “Safe blood supply is critical for fighting HIV, as it can virtually eliminate unintended transmission of HIV caused by transfusions with tainted blood. UNDP South Sudan remains a committed partner in providing continued assistance to strengthen and accelerate the Ministry of Health’s ongoing impressive achievements and in improving human development outcomes.”
The opening of the health facilities brought together a large number of partners and stakeholders besides senior government and medical officials, such as the Global Fund, UN Agencies (WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNDP) and the US Embassy. On the occasion, Ms. Marion Gleixner, the Global Fund Portfolio Manager for South Sudan, expressed her happiness and continued support to the people and government of South Sudan. Representative from the US Embassy expressed the US government’s commitment to strengthen health institutions in South Sudan to better tackle HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and other epidemic diseases.
The South Sudan five-year (2011-2015) National Reproductive Health Policy and Strategic Plan addresses, among a number of issues, capacity building of nurses and midwives, and provision of qualified doctors as well as construction of health infrastructure to provide easy-access clinics for pregnant women. Similarly for HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and other diseases, the main challenges lie in limited coverage of formal health services, human resource constraints, weak health management information system (HMIS), absence of laboratories and referral hospitals and poor supply chain management including inadequate regulatory mechanisms and shortages of essential medicines.
UNDP in South Sudan continues to serve as the Principal Recipient (PR) on behalf of the government for the grants from the Global Fund. Since 2004, UNDP through the Global Fund has been supporting expansion of key health care delivery systems and strengthening gender responsive health service delivery through construction or rehabilitation of antenatal clinics and maternity wards, teaching institutions for health personnel and increasing the number of qualified health personnel. In this regard, UNDP through the Global Fund has already constructed laboratories at the state hospitals in Wau and Malakal. There have been 15 Ante Natal Clinics, 5 Maternity Wards, and 3 health training institutes among others, constructed between 2011 and 2013 in the counties, across all 10 states, with the goal of delivering quality basic health services.
Sangita Khadka, Communications Specialist, UNDP South Sudan, firstname.lastname@example.org