Doctors are working 12-16 hour shifts to cope with the increasing demand at Malakal teaching hospital in Upper Nile State of Southern Sudan, say officials.
“We are trying to encourage more doctors to come work here,” Upper Nile State health minister Steven Lor said. The relatively poor living conditions in Malakal, however, made it difficult to convince Southern Sudanese doctors working in the capital Khartoum to move.
The hospital director, Tut Gony, said in the past two months, more than 2,000 people had sought treatment at the hospital. These included 700 malaria cases, many of whom were children.
“Our capacity and resources at this hospital do not match the high demand for services,” Gony told IRIN. The hospital, the only such facility in the state, has 14 doctors for the state's population of 126,000, according to the 2006 national census.
To cater for this population, as well as some patients from neighbouring Jonglei State, the hospital needed more beds, new surgical equipment and a steady stream of drugs, Gony said.
The current rainy season, which has left four of Upper Nile’s nine counties partially under water, was likely to increase health risks. “We have a serious problem with sanitation in Malakal,” he added. A survey by the NGO Relief International in 2007 found that 80 percent of the residents had no access to latrines or any other toilet facilities.
The town used to have a piped water supply system but it collapsed during the civil war between the Southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Sudan national army. The war ended in 2005, but by then the pipes were blocked or had been looted.
Lor said the current flooding had created a potential problem of disease outbreak. "After the water comes down, we’re expecting there will be more problems,” he said, noting that possible diseases included Bilharzia and Kala-azar, which is endemic in some parts of Southern Sudan, with outbreaks every five to 10 years.
A team led by Jalal Mohammed, a northern Sudanese internal medicine specialist, is in Malakal now to distribute anti-malarial drugs and administer treatment to patients with diarrhoea-related conditions, using mobile health clinics.
According to data compiled by the Norwegian Refugee Council, Southern Sudan has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world at 89 deaths per 1,000 live births, and a maternal mortality rate of 2,038 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is more than 10 times that of Europe.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions