South Sudan - IOM this week organized a three-day seminar on harnessing diaspora engagement for the development of South Sudan’s health sector – a vital need in a new country with some of the world’s worst health indicators.
The event, which brought together high-level government officials, UN actors and civil society representatives, provided a blueprint for implementing an IOM Development Fund project designed to enhance South Sudan’s human resources for health through strengthened engagement of health professionals in the diaspora. It also represented a first step toward developing a national diaspora engagement strategy.
“This is the first ever forum bringing together people from different government ministries to discuss issues of diaspora engagement for the development of the country,” said Dr. Lul P. Riek, Director General of Planning, External Coordination and Research at the Ministry of Health. “Diaspora participation is critical in South Sudan, particularly in building a sustainable health system,” he noted.
Participants included members of the newly created Diaspora Engagement Steering Committee for South Sudan; officials from the Ministries of Health; Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development; Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Higher Education; the World Health Organization (WHO) and other key stakeholders.
Decades of conflict have led to the virtual collapse of the health system in South Sudan, which has some of the worst global health indicators. Access to health care is available to less than 20 per cent of the population, and the country currently has approximately 1.5 doctors and 2 nurses/midwives for every 100,000 people. The WHO recommends 250 health workers for every 100,000 people.
According to the Government of South Sudan and WHO, life expectancy in South Sudan is 42 years, or 26 years less than the global average of 68. The maternal mortality ratio is 2,054/100,000 live births – one of the worst in the world. Similarly, the infant mortality rate is unacceptably high at 102/1,000 live births, and immunization coverage for preventable childhood diseases for children under one year of age is only 13.8 per cent.
Through the diaspora engagement project, South Sudanese health professionals living in the diaspora will be identified through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Directorate of Consular Services and diaspora associations, and will be encouraged to register their professional qualifications on a web-based platform. This information will then be used at a later stage to fill gaps in training and human resources in South Sudanese health institutions.
The project aims to lay the foundations for longer-term interventions benefiting health and other sectors in South Sudan in need of qualified nationals. IOM has extensive experience in facilitating human resources for health sector capacity building in Africa.
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