Juba, South Sudan — On the eve of World AIDS Day, funding of US$27 million has been announced to boost vital health services in South Sudan, including welcome support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has signed the Phase II agreement of the Health System Strengthening grant with the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
In a country that has been ravaged by more than two decades of civil war - resulting in the destruction of physical and social infrastructure and loss of skilled manpower - the grant presents an opportunity for the new nation to address key challenges related to public health, delivery of quality health services and institutional functioning as defined in its Health Sector Development Plan.
Under the accord, the Global Fund will disburse its multi-million grant over the next three years for the refurbishment of ante natal clinics, maternity wards, laboratories, blood banks, and health training institutes for nurses, midwives and laboratory technicians in South Sudan.
The grant will also support the delivery of services, including for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 people in South Sudan are living with HIV, but only about 3,000 people are accessing anti-retroviral drugs.
The Global Fund currently is the only funding source in he country to address HIV and the major source of funding for health services to fight tuberculosis and malaria.
As Principal Recipient of the Global Fund since 2004, UNDP has supported the Government of South Sudan to deliver HIV, tuberculosis and malaria services while strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Health by administering resources to construct needed infrastructure.
"UNDP has been a proud partner in helping the government fight tuberculosis, malaria and HIV with support from the Global Fund," stated UNDP's Country Director in South Sudan, Balázs Horváth. "This is critical in working to reduce maternal mortality - currently, a 15-year old girl has a higher chance of dying from pregnancy-related causes than of completing school."
South Sudan has the highest Maternal Mortality Rate in the world, estimated at 2,054 per 100,000 live births, according to the 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey. Although close to 46.7% of pregnant women attend at least one antenatal care visit, only 14.7% of deliveries are attended by skilled health professionals, according to 2010 government data.
UNDP has supported the Government in building seven ante-natal clinics, four laboratories, three maternity wards, three monitoring and evaluation facilities, three community resource centres, two blood banks and two teaching institutions.
However, the impact of the Global Fund programme, managed by UNDP's programme goes beyond simply refurbishment of facilities. The grant also finances the development of a skilled health workforce, improved access to safe and effective drugs, and strengthening of the existing health information system, thus making a vital contribution to improving the health of the population and ultimately the potential of people to live better lives and contribute to their communities.
World AIDS Day is a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have died and celebrate victories, such as increased access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention services.
Marguerite Nowak, Team Leader Communications, United Nations Development Programme, South Sudan, email@example.com, Cell: +095 619 1254