Can Southern Sudan Vote for Independence from Malaria?

As the New York Times in describing preparations for the independence vote in Southern Sudan points out today, “With little more than a week to go until the vote, ballots have been printed, voters registered and campaign rallies held. A countdown clock is posted in the capital, Juba, and foreign officials are flying in for the occasion.”

According to the Times The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is responsible for demobilizing various armed forces in the area,may have ” grossly mismanaging the money and may have even intentionally misled donors as to the program’s success.”

The UNDP is also responsible for the Global Fund Round 7 Malaria Grant in Northern Sudan. It may be doing a better job with its malaria assignment. The most recent grant progress report rated them well with a ‘B1’, but raised the concern that, “The cash absorption rate during this reporting period is only 56% of the budget. This is attributed to delays in procurements.”

sdn_mean-ss-line-2.jpgThe North has a mix of malaria transmission situations, while the South is squarely in the endemic zone (as seen in map to right). When the South votes soon for Independence, what will be their own chances of becoming independent from malaria?

The Round 7 Malaria Grant in the South is managed by PSI. The Grant started 2 years ago and currently also rates a ‘B1’. At the most recent grant progress report dated October 2010, the following were achieved:

  • 86% of ITNs had been distributed
  • 10 BCC media campaigns had been implemented and over 6000 community organization staff had been trained, exceeding targets
  • Only 17% of targeted children had been treated with ACTs in the community
  • Health facilities exceeded expectations in terms of maintaining ACT stocks

The progress report concludes that, “Strengthening the capacity of the health system to
deliver health services including malaria interventions have fallen behind set targets, due to late SR selection and contracting, and the PR focusing on the LLIN mass distribution campaign. Nevertheless, results seem to be gaining on set targets.”

Southern Sudan is not without malaria partners. For example, PSI has been working Southern Sudan since “January 2005, distributing Serena long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLIN) through the commercial sector … (and providing) support to the Ministry of Health (MOH), Government of Southern Sudan, and county health departments to prevent and treat malaria.” The IRC has trained “villagers to recognize and treat young children for malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia has helped to reduce child deaths by 81 percent in one area of Southern Sudan.”

USAID is also working to help tackle the malaria problem in Southern Sudan. The area has been one of three ‘non-focus’ countries – that is not formally under the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). Two of these countries, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of the Congo, have been added to the formal PMI roster. One wonders whether the fate of malaria control in Southern Sudan rests on the election outcomes.

The BBC quotes a Southern Sudanese nurse who compares the upcoming referendum, “.. as a mother giving birth to twins – once the labour pains are over, the two children can grow up as friends .” We know that malaria during ‘pregnancy’ and during ‘infancy and young childhood’ are threats to survival. We hope that all donors will continue to work for the survival of these Sudanese ‘children’ and bring about a true independence from malaria.

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