South Sudan ponders filling the void left by Health Pool Fund

South Sudan ponders filling the void left by Health Pool Fund
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South Sudan is in the process of procuring vital medicines and other health facilities to address the healthcare gap left behind by the defunct Health Pool Fund.

For the past ten years, South Sudan has relied on an organization called “Health Pooled Fund” to provide all medical services. But last year, the NGO withdrew and stopped supplying medicines to some parts of the country.

The National Minister of Health, Awel Deng, explained that the Health Pooled Fund had played a key role in supplying all prescription medications in the country, and after halting operations, South Sudan must now seek ways of filling the gap.

“The Health Pooled Fund was providing 90 percent of the incentives (for health workers) while also supplying medical equipment, but they withdrew their services about a year ago, leaving a void,” she was addressing journalists in Juba on Monday.

Deng told reporters that the government had begun the process of purchasing critical medicine and other medical supplies and equipment to up the preparedness for medical needs.

“The ministry is now attempting to fill the void. We will fill the gap with the small operational costs that go to the majority of the referral hospitals, as well as donations,” she explained.

South Sudan’s health system has been hit hard by a regular lack of medicines, extraordinary flooding, disease outbreaks, and a lack of food.

In accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO), maternal mortality in South Sudan ranges from 789 to 1,150 per 100,000 live births. Furthermore, only 41 per cent of people have access to safe drinking water, and 11 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities.

 According to Deng, the government has also solicited pharmaceutical donations from other countries.

“I’ve been to a few countries, and I’ve gotten a few donated medicines that we’re sending to health facilities that don’t have support,” she explained. “In the meantime, the South Sudanese government will procure essential medicines for all ten states.”

South Sudan health care workers say health care remains inadequate, with few facilities often inaccessible.

The operations of the Health Pool Fund ground to a halt last year after the British government announced austerity measures to curb extra expenditure through financial reductions to the Official Development Assistance.

Budget cuts bite

In a press release dated June 1, 2022, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) noted that as of April that year, the budget cut had affected a number of healthcare projects that were under the financial support of the fund in South Sudan.

“This has resulted in the immediate suspension of funding to approximately 220 of the 797 public health facilities it was supporting in eight out of ten states in the country.” “Further cuts at the end of July will mean that nine state hospitals will also lose funding,” noted the MSF.

In November last year, the Undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Victor Majur, lamented the negligible budgetary allocation to the sector, arguing it would affect the efforts to “fight endemic malaria and malnutrition among the children and the prevention of maternal and child morbidity.”

“The overall budget for health has declined from 7.9 per cent to less than 4 per cent and this is really serious for us in the health sector”, Dr. Majur said. “We call on the parliamentarians to join hands with the ministry of health to really push [its budget increment]”. 

In September, the lawmakers allocated less than SSP 34.7 billion out of the SSP 1.4 trillion fiscal budget to the health sector with over SSP 138.38 billion for public administration sectors, which include the ministry of presidential affairs, cabinet ministry, and foreign affairs ministry.