News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Conference plans rebuilding of Southern Sudan's health services

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7510.179 (Published 21 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:179
  1. Peter Moszynski
  1. London

    Interim health ministers from Sudan's new government of national unity and from the semi-autonomous government of Southern Sudan met in London last week, with other health experts, to consider how to rebuild Southern Sudan's shattered health services.

    The new governments were established earlier this month as part of a peace agreement ending Africa's longest conflict.

    The conference's organiser, Mohamed Baraka, a consultant ear, nose, and throat surgeon at Royal Lancaster Infirmary and formerly a professor at King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia, said, “The Southern Sudan government must show strong political leadership to avert epidemics such as malaria, HIV/AIDs, and so on. Priorities are to be given to tropical and preventive medicine and especially the daunting challenges to eradicate typhoid, tetanus, whooping cough, tuberculosis, polio, and measles in children.”

    About a third of Sudan's total territory is in Southern Sudan, which has a population of nine million. “This population is served by only 80 doctors and less than 600 nurses,” Mr Baraka told the conference, at Imperial College, London. However, millions of returning refugees need special attention. “We are asking interested experts to help in making life better for these people,” he said.

    Organised by the British and American Friends of Southern Sudan, the conference was presented with a range of ideas on rehabilitating the region, which has some of the world's worst health indicators.

    Several speakers commented on the urban bias of Sudan's existing health service, which is widely held to be overserved with specialists and has too few general practitioners. “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” was how one speaker described it.

    Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier who is now a rap star and who performed at the recent Live8—Africa Calling concerts, made an impassioned plea for more help for the long term psychological and social rehabilitation of youths affected by war.

    Last month Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, warned that a shortfall of a billion dollars in contributions could see the peace process derailed by hunger. He said, “If we fail to respond to these challenges now, the political consequences could haunt us for many years. Most worryingly, the main hope for peace in Sudan as a whole—the comprehensive peace agreement—could be placed in serious jeopardy.”

    More details and the conference proceedings are available from the British and American Friends of Southern Sudan at baraka{at}btinternet.com

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