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Global Health

South Sudan health
USAID programs help prevent tropical diseases like schistosomiasis
Sarah Armstrong/USAID


As South Sudan recovers from decades of civil war, the vast majority of the population of the new nation lacks access to essential health services and to safe water and sanitation. These conditions contribute to poor health for the people of South Sudan and exceptionally high mortality rates, particularly of mothers, infants and children. The maternal mortality ratio is among the highest in the world, and one in every 10 infants will die before his or her fifth birthday. Malaria is a major cause of death among the general population, particularly for children under age 5 and pregnant women. HIV/AIDS, already prevalent in East Africa, has the potential to become a serious threat in South Sudan.

Recognizing that many South Sudanese were falling ill or dying from preventable or treatable causes, the Ministry of Health identified a set of priority health care actions and interventions proven to most efficiently and effectively reduce mortality, disability and morbidity due to the most common health problems. This basic package of health and nutrition services is comprised of interventions for disease prevention, health promotion and selected curative care that can be delivered cost-effectively with available technology.

To bolster the quality and extent of health service delivery, USAID provides key interventions to enhance the professional capacity of health service providers. It will also improve critical health facility and water and sanitation infrastructure. To strengthen effectiveness of the government’s health systems in delivering essential health services, USAID investments will include intensive building of human and public sector institutional capacity. This strategy mirrors the government’s development plans for the health sector and is closely coordinated with other health development partners and donors.

Maternal and Child Health

Causes of mortality in South Sudan—particularly affecting women and children—include vaccine-preventable diseases, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. USAID has expanded urgently needed health services to 14 counties in South Sudan’s 10 states, improving access by more than 1.3 million people to high-impact primary health services. In 2012, USAID is introducing a comprehensive strategy to rapidly reduce maternal mortality by reducing post-partum hemorrhage, which is one of the three top killers of pregnant women in the country. The USAID strategy will complement and fit within a broader effort by USAID, other health donors and the South Sudan Government to improve maternal health services comprehensively through improved basic and emergency obstetric services and antenatal and postnatal care as well as by increasing the numbers of midwives and other skilled birth attendants.

USAID improves the human resource and institutional capacity of the Ministry of Health by supporting the development of national health policies and protocols and guidelines for quality health services. Embedding technical advisors within the Ministry of Health has proven to be a successful model for transferring management skills to Ministry of Health counterparts, while building their capacity to lead national programs in such health areas as malaria, pharmaceutical management, birth spacing, reproductive health and immunization.


Preliminary data indicates that approximately 3 percent of South Sudan’s population is HIV-positive. With internal and cross-border trade commencing, all the risk factors for an increase in HIV infections are present, with sex workers, truck drivers, motorcycle riders and soldiers among the groups considered to be most at risk of HIV infection. These populations and their risk behaviors are the focus of efforts by USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Defense under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Key activities include behavior change interventions, HIV counseling and testing, as well as care and support to HIV-positive individuals and their families.

Infectious Diseases

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in South Sudan, with the total number of TB patients estimated at 5,688 per 100,000 and mortality reported to be 1,652 per 100,000. USAID supports TB treatment in more than 40 health facilities, with at least one facility in each of the 10 states. Treatment success rates now exceed 80 percent. USAID assists the National TB Control Program to provide the most effective treatment—directly observed treatment, short-course, or DOTS—as well as technical assistance for coordination, policy development and lab renovation. Other achievements include support for policies that build the National TB Control Program’s capacity and establish systems and procedures to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor TB.

USAID supports the goals of the South Sudan National Malaria Control Program’s “National Roll Back Malaria” Strategic Plan, which seeks to cut deaths from the disease by half within five years. USAID-supported health care facilities offer malaria patients proper diagnosis by trained health workers and treatment with recommended antimalarial drugs. In 2010, USAID supported the distribution of more than 100,000 bed nets through primary health care facilities to pregnant women and children, as well as an additional 3 million bed nets funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. This provides coverage to more than half of South Sudan’s population.

In 2010, USAID supported the Ministry of Health to successfully conduct a polio immunization campaign that reached more than 3 million children in South Sudan with the vaccine, achieving polio immunization coverage of 99 percent. Current investments by USAID to further South Sudan’s goals of eradicating polio and improve disease surveillance include strengthening the vaccine cold chain and training health officials and health workers in polio surveillance and community mobilization. To improve immunization services, USAID will work at state and county levels to disseminate immunization policy and technical guidance. 

Last updated: August 12, 2014

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