In 2011 South Sudan became a new nation after being embroiled in a 50 year civil war with the rulers of “northern” Sudan. Just after it became an independent country the Government of South Sudan and the International Christian Medical & Dental Association (ICMDA) identified the critical shortage of health personal as one of the main reasons that this young nation was unable to provide access to healthcare to its population. The health condition needless to say was dismal with the country having some of the worst health related statistics in the world.
So in 2013 ICMDA began a project to train mid-level cadre of health personnel for South Sudan. Because of the renewal of conflict in December 2013, the location of the training institute was shifted to Kampala, Uganda. So the National Institute of Health Sciences Jonglei (NIHSJ) was inaugurated on May 2014 but began operating from Kampala in partnership with the Mengo Hospital (A mission hospital under the Church of Uganda which is the oldest hospital in the whole of East Africa).
Since May 2014 the ICMDA NIHSJ lead by Anil & Shalini Cherian has completed the training of 36 Clinical Officers (Diploma in Clinical Medicine & Public Health), 16 Diploma Nurses and 15 Midwives (The leadership team also had Jasper Damaris an M.Sc. Nurse from CMC Vellore). All 67 students have since successfully completed their courses and qualified by taking the qualifying examination of the National Health Professionals Examination Board. ICMDA has closed this project as of July 2018.
Relaunching the mission to South Sudan
Drs Anil & Shalini Cherian have previously worked for over 20 years in North India with the Emmanuel Hospital Association an indigenous Christian organization and were in positions of senior management and leadership when they felt God’s call to go and help the nation of South Sudan. They were actively recruited by ICMDA in 2012 and were deputed by EHA /EMFI to start the ICMDA National Institute of Health Sciences Jonglei.
In April 2018 they were requested by the Minister of Health, Republic of South Sudan to restart the Health Sciences Institute in Bor Town in Jonglei State of South Sudan.
The Institute will become one of the 11 Nationally recognized Health Sciences Institutes and will be accredited by the Dr. John Garang Memorial University located in Bor Town. To begin with the Institute will continue to train mid-cadre of health professionals- Clinical Officers, Nurses and Midwives. However we hope that the University will eventually develop a faculty of health sciences and develop other health professional courses. The Institute by 2020 will also become one of the campuses of the South Sudan College of Physicians and Surgeons and begin post-graduate medical training in Obstetrics & Gynaecology and General Surgery.
In May 2018, the National Minister of Heath constituted a high level steering committee to assist in reestablishing the Institute in Bor. Drs. Anil and Shalini Cherian have been invited by the Minster to provide leadership and assist them in restarting of the Institute in Bor Town. They visited Bor Town in July 2018 and met with the State Governor, the State Minister for Health and the Medical Superintendent. A building close to the State Referral Hospital called the “Egyptian Clinic” was identified as the initial site for the Institute in Bor though it has also been suggested that a twin facility be developed at the John Garang Memorial University when funds for construction are available.
Since an effective health service delivery and teaching hospital are important to impart practical clinical training Anil & Shalini will also work part-time at the adjacent State Referral Hospital – which has around 200 beds. Currently the hospital is not being supported by any of the major relief agencies and has only two junior medical doctors. The health services being provided are very limited and suffers from a number of quality issues related to a lack of skills among the team but also from shortages in medical/surgical supplies. Shalini will work on developing the Obstetric Department and Anil will look into the Pediatric department. This will definitely provide a much needed boost to the services of Jonglei State.
Guiding and Planning of Christian Healthcare in South Sudan
Due to the 50 years civil war and because of the short history of Christian mission in South Sudan, unlike other countries in East Africa, the main Protestant church in South Sudan does not own or run many medical centres. Its involvement in grassroot level health progammes also has been minimal. A few independent missions have started a few health facilities in the past 10 years but haven’t been able to sustain them especially since 2014 after fighting broke out again, leading to the evacuation of all ex-pat medical personal.
The Church Missionary Society (CMS) and its African coordinator suggest that with the revival of the peace agreement that Anil could assist the Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, province of South Sudan, the Most Rev. Justin Badi Amara in establishing Christian medical services in this war ravaged country. Following up on this suggestion Anil met with the Archbishop and this suggestion was welcomed by His Grace. So in addition to the proposed work of restarting the Institute and working to develop the healthcare service at the State Hospital Bor, Anil and Shalini would also support the Christian medical work in South Sudan by assisting the Archbishop in planning and developing. Since there is still enormous support and goodwill for South Sudan from the wider Anglican community this engagement with the church could be strategic with potential to impact the country.
The primary medium term objectives for the medical mission to South Sudan would be
- Re-establishing the National Institute of Health Sciences Jonglei in Bor Town South Sudan and getting it affiliated to the John Garang Memorial University.
- To develop post-graduate training of doctors and clinical officers in partnership with the College of Physician and Surgeons of South Sudan.
- Develop the healthcare services at the Bor State Referral Hospital especial in the fields of Obstetrics and Pediatrics.
- Assisting the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan in developing Christian Healthcare in South Sudan.
John Garang Memorial University https://www.jgmust-edu.org
College of Physicians and Surgeons of South Sudan http://cpssouthsudan.org
The Episcopal Church of South Sudan (Anglican)
Other Supportive Partnerships
1. Christian Medical College Vellore – Missions Department 2. Coalition of Indian Christian Agencies – Evangelical Medical Fellowship of India, Christian Medical Association of India, Emmanuel Hospital Association .