SOUTH SUDAN—The Ministry of Health, with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, has begun implementing effective infection prevention and control (IPC) and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) measures. 

This is crucial in an effort to protect communities from diseases caused by environmental and health-related contamination. 

This comprehensive strategy includes water quality testing, hand hygiene promotion, healthcare waste management, and the execution of IPC standards using multimodal strategy enhancement and standard operating procedures.

Additionally, focus is paid to managing healthcare-associated infections and antibiotic resistance, which are recognized as important in the contemporary setting.

The initiative, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), and Resolve to Save Lives, aims to scale up IPC/WASH measures in healthcare facilities in order to reduce the risk of infection transmission and water-borne outbreaks.

Since 2020, South Sudan has been dealing with excessive rainfall and rising water levels along the White Nile, resulting in widespread flooding.

This has had a significant impact on the healthcare system, affecting approximately one million people and causing considerable disruption to regular daily activities in the impacted areas.

Despite the adverse circumstances, WHO has successfully trained over 648 healthcare personnel between 2023 and March 2024, demonstrating the healthcare system’s tenacity and dedication.

These professionals have played an important role in strengthening the healthcare system’s resilience by sending laboratory experts and public health officers across the country to boost water quality surveillance and sanitary inspection operations, including conducting onsite water quality tests.

As part of the intervention, a total of 967 water samples were collected and tested for physical, bacteriological, and essential chemical parameters, the test was conducted onsite and at the National Public Health Laboratory in Juba.

Findings revealed that 581 samples tested positive with fecal Coliforms (E. coli), representing 60% of the contamination rate of water points across the country.

In response, WHO has taken swift action, procuring and distributing over 1521 assorted IPC/WASH supplies, including color-coded waste bins, disinfectants, and water quality testing equipment, to several hotspot locations and counties.

Dr. Humphrey Karamagi, the WHO Representative for South Sudan, reflected on the challenges ahead, saying, “In our efforts to reduce infection and unnecessary death due to infections, we place infection prevention at the center of all our health interventions.”

He also  emphasized WHO’s commitment to strengthening IPC initiatives, such as water quality surveillance, as well as assisting in the formulation and implementation of national IPC guidelines at all levels of healthcare.

As part of strengthening the IPC Programme, WHO is implementing measures to ensure continuous technical support to the Ministry of Health by increasing the capacity of healthcare workers through refresher training, job mentorship, and providing strategic direction for meeting the minimum requirements for IPC Programs.

WHO is also collaborating with WASH and Health Cluster Partners to improve WASH in health facilities, encourage the adoption of Multi Modal Improvement Strategies, and incorporate IPC into existing health systems.

This will go a long way toward improving patient outcomes and guaranteeing healthcare worker safety, as IPC must be institutionalized and used as an everyday quality procedure in healthcare, rather than just as an outbreak response measure.

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