The third National Health Summit in South Sudan

Juba, 27 March 2017— The third National Health Summit for South Sudan opened today with some 500 participants coming together to consider the challenges and opportunities of delivering health in South Sudan, and to establish a clear vision for health in the years ahead.

Organized by the Republic of South Sudan’s Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) is a key organizing partner. The five day event’s theme is “Harnessing Strong Partnerships for a Resilient Health System towards attainment of Universal Health Coverage.”

Dr Riek Gai Kok, Minister of Health, convened the National Health Summit to foster common understanding on South Sudan’s new National Health Policy (2016-2026), new strategies, new financing mechanisms and new political developments to strengthen the national health system given available resources in South Sudan, some 5.4 million people are in need of health services, including 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), 1.4 million refugees, and 648 000 children at risk of measles, among others. Communicable diseases are a leading cause of death and disease across the country. WHO estimates that 12.3 million people in South Sudan are at risk due to disease outbreaks?

“Cholera, measles, malaria and other communicable diseases remain the key public health threats of concern in many locations,” said Dr Usman. “People are also dying from non-communicable diseases and from lack of care and medication. Plus we must better address helping the nearly 1.5 million people needing mental health services.”

Despite many challenges, the health sector has seen some recent successes. For example, in 2017, WHO supported the nationwide vaccination campaign against polio for 3 million children under age 5, including in famine-affected areas. WHO also recently supported a cholera vaccination campaign, including in famine-affected areas, and provided 68 967 doses of oral cholera vaccine to Unity State.

WHO continues to work with the Ministry of Health and partners to develop local skills and knowledge, including training more than 1 300 health workers in such areas as disease detection, outbreak investigation and response? In 2016, WHO helped to identify, investigate and respond to 51 disease outbreaks out of 223 alerts, including outbreaks of cholera, measles, viral hemorrhagic fever, malaria and hepatitis E virus from multiple locations?

Participation from the highest levels of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan is expected throughout. Several Ministers of Health from neighboring countries are attending. Representatives from key donors, UN agencies, international and national non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academia, civil society and others also joined the Summit’s opening. Dr Helen Rees, WHO Chairperson for WHO’s Africa Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group, will act as Chair of the Summit.