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JUBA, South Sudan — Nine health professionals from South Sudan have been selected to participate in a one-year scholarship to gain additional skills to work as health professional educators in their country.

Shortly before starting their training, they met with senior Ministry of Health officials and the United Nations Population Fund for a discussion in Juba. “This scholarship is a big opportunity for South Sudan. We have very good structures in the health sector and are well equipped – but we lack the skills and substance,” said Dr. Makur Kariom, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Health, South Sudan.

“We have been waiting a long time for this and to have our own national tutors. We thank UNFPA for their support for this opportunity and hope that through our good friendship we can continue with this in the future,” added Dr. Margaret Itto, Ministry of Health Director-General for Training and Professional Development.


Strengthening South Sudan's health workforce

The scholarship programme is a collaboration between the South Sudan Ministry of Health and the Centre for Educational Development in Health in Arusha, where the South Sudanese health professionals will be trained. It is supported by UNFPA and aims at strengthening the health workforce in the newly established country.

“The problem is that our National Health Training Institutes do not have enough qualified tutors and we still depend on foreign tutors to educate our students,” said Janet Michael, Director for Nursing and Midwifery, Ministry of Health, South Sudan. “This scholarship is a good start but each National Health Training Institute in the country should have at least five qualified tutors, so we need to train even more in the future.” 

Aim to increase skilled birth attendants

Strengthening the national capacity of health workers and supporting the country to build a strong cadre of tutors, especially for skilled birth attendants, is an important part of UNFPA’s country programme in South Sudan. “This is the first group of health professionals that is going to train as tutors under this partnership, but we have future plans,” says Kondwani Mwangulube, Programme Manager at UNFPA South Sudan. “The goal is to have more and more national tutors with the right skills because qualified tutors mean qualified students, and this means increasing the number of quality skilled birth attendants,” Mr. Mwangulube said.

Boosting the number of skilled birth attendants is one of UNFPA’s strategies to reduce maternal mortality. South Sudan is estimated to have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, at 2,054 per 100,000 live births. It is estimated that only 10 per cent of deliveries are attended by skilled birth attendants in South Sudan.

The students looked forward to the one-year learning experience. “This will benefit other people in my country as we will be able to transfer the knowledge to others once we are back,” said Sake Jemelia Beba, a registered nurse and midwife, and president of the Nursing and Midwifery Association in South Sudan.