Earlier this year, officials in Southern Sudan announced the preliminary tally for the referendum on splitting Africa’s largest country in two. The results were an avalanche as nearly 99 percent voted to secede from the north. Thus, Southern Sudan will become the world’s newest nation in July. On May 19, 2011, MedShare supported the health of this nation by shipping two 40-foot ocean containers of medical humanitarian aid for Juba Teaching Hospital.
Sudan is a low-income country with a GDP per capita of US $700. Bolstered by higher oil production, good harvest and a continuing boom in construction and services, the economy has recently grown at a faster pace. However, this growth has been unevenly distributed and is geographically concentrated in central states around the capital city. There are huge urban-rural and regional disparities in health conditions as the Southern states are more deprived and underserved. There is also a high burden of infectious diseases in the country and epidemics of infectious diseases are common.
The nation of Sudan still faces challenges that jeopardize the chances of recovering the healthcare system. Among these are:
- The excessive burden of communicable diseases, e.g. malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, vaccine-preventable diseases, and other neglected tropical diseases in the South and the emerging problems of non-communicable disease and of HIV/AIDS. Further areas of concern are high maternal and child mortality as well as widespread malnutrition.
- The country is prone to natural disasters such as floods and droughts. While these disrupt infrastructure, including that of the healthcare system, they also cause illness and bring suffering through displacement, loss of shelter, food and income, thus posing a greater demand on the already weak and disrupted health system.
- Since the main focus has so far been on humanitarian action, recovery and development of the health system has been largely overlooked with an overemphasis placed on clinical care.
The containers are carrying a combined total of over 17,800 lbs of donated medical supplies for the hospital, including 221 hospital mattresses, an oxygen concentrator, infant warmer, pulse oximeter, ventilator, nebulizers, syringes, Personal Energy Transportation vehicles, surgical masks, splints, gauze, band-aids, and much more.
Many people were critically important in making this shipment possible, both within and outside of MedShare. The UPS Foundation aided with the shipment of the containers, Esther Sprague and the faculty and students at the University of California Davis were vital in initiating this project, and the Juba Teaching Hospital staff was a pleasure to work with while ordering supplies. Hewlett-Packard also contributed $5,000 for these container shipments.
Most of all, though, we’d like to recognize our Western Region volunteers for taking on this project as a fundraising initiative. Before our volunteers got involved, a UC Davis group had been trying for over a year to raise money for the container. As of October 2010, they were lacking the $8,000 needed to cover the extra costs associated with the shipping to Southern Sudan. So, our volunteers stepped in. We challenged them to raise the remaining amount, and as is so typical of MedShare volunteers, this group went above and beyond. They collected almost $10,000 – enough to ship a second container of supplies!
Roughly the size of Texas, Southern Sudan consists of 10 states. Both the U. S. Government and private organizations have committed to helping Southern Sudan build a strong state, and MedShare is proud to be among these supporters. Healthcare is an important issue in this developing nation, and the two shipments of medical supplies and equipment will go a long way toward improving the quality of care available.
This is an excerpt from June’s e-newsletter. To read more – including a story of a medical mission team in Ethiopia and an 86 year-old volunteer – click here.