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IMA World Health to Help Rebuild South Sudanís Health Systems

A Maryland-based healthcare nonprofit has undertaken a monumental task: Rebuilding the crumbling remains of South Sudan's healthcare systems in the states of Upper Nile and Jonglei.

New Windsor, MD, August 27, 2008 --( A highly-rated nonprofit agency in Maryland is focused on “advancing health and healing the world over.” But in doing so they now are taking on a monumental challenge: Rebuilding the crumbled remains of South Sudan’s health care systems.

“This is the worst health care situation that exists in the world,” says Charles Franzén, senior program officer with IMA World Health. “The vast majority of people in South Sudan have never had health services of any kind.”

Building upon his organization’s success “advancing health and healing” with similar programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Franzén is now working with South Sudan’s Ministry of Health to launch a $26-million health care program. Funded by the World Bank’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund, the 40-month effort will establish and improve basic health care services in the states of Upper Nile and Jonglei, where populations total approximately two million.

This massive effort will draw upon all of IMA’s areas of expertise. Three hospitals and dozens of small clinics are the only health care facilities in these two states and of these, Franzén says, “Churches and non-governmental organizations have contributed what they can. It is our work now to bring them all together and provide resources for a sustainable health system.”

Given the enormity of the task – and the region’s 100-degree days and 90-degree nights – attracting doctors to the region might seem impossible. But Franzén longtime career in international health has served him well. Even before the grant was awarded, he’d been acquainted with a pool of candidates who were uniquely equipped for work in Sudan.

As Sudanese children, they had fled their war-torn country like so many other “lost boys,” escaping with little more than their lives. Their 23-year odyssey took this group of 15 from a refugee camp in Ethiopia to medical school in Cuba, followed by menial jobs in Canada, where their Cuban medical degrees were not recognized. They finally came home in 2008, 11 of them as physicians licensed to practice in Sudan, and 4 with other credentials in health care. All 15 have pledged to provide health care services in South Sudan for at least two years.

IMA World Health has hired two of the physicians, Munyanga Mukungo and Makina a Nganga, as state team leaders for the new program. A third, Daniel Madit, will serve as a consultant. Heading up the entire effort will be Scott Shannon, an Africa-based American physician who knows the group well: As head of the IMA World Health-funded effort to reintegrate the physicians into South Sudan, he has been working with them for more than 2 years, coordinating their internships in Kenya after coursework at the University of Calgary (with major support from the Capacity Project, Samaritan’s Purse-Canada, and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance).

“They have lots of contact with other expatriates,” says Franzén. “Lab technicians, nurses, dentists: South Sudan will need all of them.”

While the challenges are daunting, staff at IMA World Health are optimistic that their expertise will make a significant impact in South Sudan. The situation is seen as similar to the organization’s longtime work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has helped to provide primary health care for roughly 10 million people, while strengthening national and faith-based health care systems.

About IMA World Health
IMA World Health helps provide essential health care services and supplies, without bias, to people in need in developing countries. We accomplish this through direct provision to hospitals, clinics, programs, and other health care providers, and by strengthening health care systems through training, education, and oversight. Faith-based health care networks are key partners in IMA World Health’s work. We have consistently received top ratings from independent watchdog agencies including Charity Navigator.

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IMA World Health
Lynne Hammar

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