Health Ministry ‘only smells money but can’t see it’

By Mary Poni

The national Minister of Health, Yolanda Awel Deng said they only smell the smoke of money but cannot see the money approved in the budget yet the health status in the country is very poor.

Yolanda said she heard citizens concern, speaking matters of health saying let them continue to talk until a step towards improving it is taken.

Minister Yolanda said she always mentions on so many occasions that South Sudan has inherited a very weak health system since the country got its independence and what the country has now is what was designed for the nation.

The health minister noted that more work needed to be done especially in the sector of health care services adding that it has to be inclusive because nobody is going to win doing something by themselves.

“It is not one woman show nor one man show, and not one person’s show,” she stressed.

“The money remains somewhere else; we only smell the smoke of it.” She noted, saying that there is a need for the government to invest more in the health sectors.

“Of course, we have got donations or pledges that were done or a grant that was given to South Sudan, for example, if 200 million dollars is granted, the ministry doesn’t see that money in the health sector,” the health minister disclosed.

Yolanda stated that when she went to present the ministry’s budget to the technical team at the parliament, Mama Abuk and her team supported her but she got disappointed at the end of the day when her (ministry) was only given barely little penny and now complaints aroused that the health sector is not doing well.

“We cannot do well when we don’t have money for what’s required to be done,” she reiterated.

South Sudan has been battling several endemics in the country, including Ebola outbreak in the neighboring country, Covid-19 and others.

There are also those deadly diseases like hepatitis B, C and mussels that are silent killers especially in the villages, cattle camps and almost everywhere in towns’ people are dying yet the diseases are preventable.

“If we have got more resources, we would do a lot of screening and vaccination to prevent the citizens from infections and even dying from the preventable diseases,” Yolanda said.

She said the ministry of health recently declared mussels’ outbreak in the country because there was a gap that was created during the Covid-19 pandemic whereby the vaccination of children was stopped including outbreak of cholera, chicken pox, apart from malaria, HIV/AIDs and TB.

She said that there is a lot of work to be done in the health sector and it requires collective responsibility from the ministry to make sure that they (MOH) succeed in what they are doing.

“We have the capacity and the capability to change the health issues to what we want and we are responsible in changing it and that is why the mothers of solidarity for health care started defining it,” she acknowledged.

She said South Sudan has the best experts in the region particularly in the health sector which includes doctors, technical experts among others.

Yolanda Awel stated that she has the best record of experts in the ministry of health and the health sector is the best in the region; saying that South Sudan was elected among all other African countries in East Africa as the “chair of African Ebola Taskforce,” and it was because of the experts in the country.

“I am so proud of you with the skills that you all have, the expertise, nationalism, you are the patriotic citizens of this country and each time I come around the hospital premises, I find the doctors busy working despite being unpaid yet they get a little penny in which if it is converted to US dollar, is actually the worst at around $10 to $20” she consoled.

“It is all of us who contribute for better progress and I am so happy that our lawmakers have joined hands to do wonders,” she stated.

Minister Yolanda said more resources are needed for the health centers.

“We can talk as much as we want, we can talk until the cows come back home in the evening but if we don’t hit the work, nothing is going to materialize,” she stressed.

She strongly urged all the sectors, be it private or government to invest in the health sector as corporate responsibility for the goodness of this nation and for peace sustainability.

“Also, the NGOs, I know that there is bureaucratic which is going to be there and will continue to be but do not neglect South Sudan since that we have the independence and went back to war, more investment is still needed from the international donors,” she stressed.    

Minister Yolanda said NGOs are doing a great job and I must thank them. Meanwhile, the government should work on changing the narrative of people feeling that all money comes from the donors.