In an effort to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) in South Sudan, Africa’s youngest state, Amref Health Africa has partnered with the South Sudan Nurses and Midwives Association (SSNAMA) to launch the Nursing Now Campaign.

The initiative, which was launched against the backdrop of worldwide UHC Day celebrations  on 12 December, aims to generate awareness, understanding and grassroots demand for UHC in order to motivate health policies and investments that truly aim to leave no one behind.

The campaign also seeks to strengthen capacity building among nurses and midwives in order to help them understand their role within the global push to achieve UHC.

“The nursing profession is the backbone of the health system. UHC will not be a reality if we do not invest in the health workforce that is responsive to the health needs of our people,’’ says Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa.

Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa

Nurses and midwives make up approximately 70 per cent of the health care workforce around the world. This makes them integral to UHC, which when achieved will enable everyone – regardless of their location or socio-economic background – to access health services that address the  most significant causes of  disease and death, and ensure that the quality of those services is good enough to improve the health of those who receive them.

The Campaign was launched following a capacity building workshop attended by 50 nurses and midwives at Juba St. Mary’s College. The workshop, which was also attended by representatives from South Sudan’s Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation (WHO), UNFPA and other development partners, covered topics such as: the role of nurses and midwives in ensuring UHC in humanitarian contexts and delivering health care services for all including those in hard to reach areas, the role of communities in enhancing UHC in South Sudan, and gender-based violence as a key issue in humanitarian settings.

To meet the continent’s health needs, Africa will need to increase its health workforce by 140 per cent, signallling the urgent need for governments to invest in training more personnel.

Amref continues to vocally advocate for an increase in the number of trained health workers especially at national and regional levels, so as to bridge existing gaps in public health. This is in line with its vision of creating lasting health change in Africa, which has a shortfall of more than 800,000 health workers according to WHO.

Earlier in the week, Amref Health Africa celebrated the inaugural graduation ceremony of over 170 students from the Amref International University (AMIU), which took place on 9 December ahead of the UHC Day.

Speaking during the ceremony, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr Omari Issa, said: “It is gratifying to witness Amref’s transformation from being an institution that has trained community-level health service providers for over 40 years, to a university that trains health workers who will occupy positions that influence policy, regulation and legislation.”

AMIU is a pan-African health sciences university that was launched in 2017 with the aim of progressively developing innovative programs that cater to the present and future health needs of African populations. The university is symbolic of Amref’s rich heritage in partnering with communities across Sub-Saharan Africa over the last 60 years.