Juba, 7 July 2017 – South Sudan has historically faced a double burden of natural and man-made hazards. The majority of which have been biological hazards like the Ebola outbreaks of 1976, 1979 and 2004, Yellow fever, Cholera, Measles, Meningitis, Visceral Leishmaniasis and Guinea Worm. Natural hazards including perennial floods, occasional droughts and famine affecting both human and animal health. In order to effectively mitigate, reduce the impact, and enhance emergency preparedness and response, countries require policy procedures in place that help to curb the public health threats.
In this regard, the World Health Organization (WHO) with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supported the government of South Sudan to conduct a two-day multi sectoral risk profiling exercise from 4-5 July in Juba. South Sudan becomes the 20th African country to conduct a risk assessment/hazard profiling using the WHO tool for strategic risk assessment (STAR).
The objectives of this two-day event were to identify and classify priority risks using a systematic, transparent and evidence-based approach; conduct a comprehensive and strategic risk assessment of all the identified risks to inform preparedness and response plans. For each hazard, the level of national preparedness and readiness to mitigate them was defined.
Health consequences of the identified health hazards in South Sudan were determined and the frequency, seasonality and likelihood documented. For each health consequence the vulnerabilities of the population were examined along with the national coping capacity to manage those risks.
During the workshop, the participants used the STAR tool to guide discussions, reflections and analysis, as well to facilitate the capture of data on the public health threats and risks identified. After a critical analysis, the high priority public health threats were identified. These include: injuries due to armed conflict as the highest, while other high priority risks are disruption to health services; sexual and gender based violence, acute watery diarrhoea (Cholera), hepatitis and psychosocial complications due to trauma.
Advanced preparedness actions will be implemented to better manage these high priority risks.
Dr Pinyi Nyimol, the Director General for preventive Health Services (PHS) in the Ministry of Health appreciated WHO and the donors for organizing the exercise. He added that the prioritization of health risks and the development and testing of contingency plans was a cornerstone for prompt and robust response to public health events.
One of the participants, Mr Placido Wani Charles, Director Emergency preparedness and Response, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management said, ‘We are grateful to WHO for bringing together the key stakeholders to do this assessment which will guide us in developing a comprehensive strategic response plan which we shall use to mobilize resources and streamline implementation’.
Dr Rudi Conninx, WHO Incident Manager, on behalf of Dr Abdulmumini Usman, WHO Country Representative to South Sudan, noted the importance of the national team’s contribution in this strategic risk assessment exercise and that the identified priority public health threats will be integrated into the disaster risk management planning for South Sudan. He pledged WHO’s continued support to the assessment process and the required response planning.
The risk profiling exercise involved participants from both public and private sectors including Government Ministries such as Health, Disaster and Humanitarian Affairs; Environment; Interior and Petroleum.