Better Health for Southern Sudan

Dr. Mike Marks and I just returned from visiting AMREF and the National Health Training institute (NHTI) in Southern Sudan. NHTI was established in 1998 as a school to train clinical officers.  In 2006 it began training community midwives and is now running a third training program, for public health officers. NHTI has graduated 269 clinical officers and 26 community midwives; the first class of public health officers has yet to graduate.

There are 38 third-year clinical officer students, of which Direct Relief is supporting 30. They are currently in the field in Yei and Torit, 75 miles and 186 miles away from Maridi. These locations were chosen because of the staffing and medical supplies available at these facilities. The students will spend one month working within a health unit and two months at the hospital before returning to Maridi in October for final classes and exams. In November, each student will select his or her preferred location for internship.

Because the one-year internship does not pay, locations are selected based on where the students have family or friends that they can stay with. Preferences must be submitted to the school for approval.  The students will have the month of December off and will begin their internships in January 2011. Although graduated in November 2010, the students will commemorate their graduation in November 2011, as graduation ceremonies are held every other year.

Clinical officers are in high demand in Southern Sudan.  Already now, four months before graduation, the announcement board at the school has notices of posts available. The accreditation received upon completion isn’t recognized outside the country, but within Southern Sudan, clinical officers are seen as the primary access to medical care, as doctors are in such short supply. Of those graduating, 99 percent find jobs and stay within the country.

During my visit I was able to meet, attend class with, and participate in rounds at the hospital with the year one and year two classes of clinical officers. I also spent many hours with the head midwife for the midwife training program, Christine Nakayenga. She is a petite woman, but she has an air of confidence about her and is determined to bring knowledge and access to safe birthing across Southern Sudan. We talked about what organizations are doing in the area and what still needs to be done.  She is a wealth of information. I will send more about the Maridi County Hospital soon.

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