Two days before flying to Arusha, Tanzania, to better their skills so that they can educate others, nine South Sudanese health professionals selected to take part in a one-year scholarship programme met today with officials from the South Sudan Ministry of Health (MoH) and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Juba.
“This scholarship is a big opportunity for South Sudan,” said Dr. Makur Kariom, Under Secretary at the South Sudan MoH. “We have very good structures in the health sector and are well-equipped, but we lack the skills and substance.”
Thanking the UNFPA for its support, Dr. Margaret Itto, MoH Director General for Training and Professional Development, expressed hope that the scholarship programme would continue in future. “We have been waiting a long time for this to come and to see our own national tutors.”
The scholarship program was organized by the South Sudan MoH and the Centre for Educational Development in Health Arusha, where they will be trained. Supported by the UNFPA, it aims to strengthen the health workforce in the newly born country.
“The problem is that our National Health Training Institutes do not have enough qualified tutors and we still depend on foreign tutors to educate our students,” said Janet Michael, Director for Nursing and Midwifery, South Sudan MoH. “This scholarship is a good start, but each National Health Training Institute in the country should have at least five qualified tutors, so we need to train even more in the future.”
Strengthening the national capacity of health workers and supporting the country to build a strong cadre of tutors, especially for skilled birth attendants, is an important part of UNFPA’s country programme in South Sudan.
“This is the first group of health professionals that is going to train as tutors under this partnership, but we have future plans”, said Kondwani Mwangulube, UNFPA South Sudan Programme Manager. “The goal is to have more and more national tutors with the right skills, because qualified tutors mean qualified students and this again means ultimately having an increased number of quality skilled birth attendants.”
Increasing skilled birth attendants is one of UNFPA’s strategies to reduce maternal mortality, of which South Sudan is estimated to have one of the highest rates in the world at 2,054 per 100,000 live births. It is further estimated that only 10 per cent of deliveries are attended by skilled birth attendants in South Sudan.
The students themselves were looking forward to this one-year learning experience. They shared the expectation of gaining useful skills required for a professional tutorship, stating that they keen to bring this knowledge back to South Sudan.
“This will also benefit other people in my country, as we will be able to transfer the knowledge and pass it on to others once we are back,” said Sake Jemelia Beba, a registered nurse and midwife as well as President of the Nursing and Midwifery Association in South Sudan.