After decades of civil war, Southern Sudan is rebuilding itself and improving basic services for its citizens. Southern Sudan’s young Ministry of Health (MOH) is developing its health systems and infrastructure and working toward disease control and prevention. As part of these efforts, in May 2008, the Ministry launched a program to control five NTDs through an integrated approach recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and funded by USAID’s NTD Control Program. These diseases – lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and trachoma – affect the poorest, most remote populations and cause life-long disability, disfigurement, social stigma, and reduction in economic productivity. All five NTDs can be combated with preventive drugs. “Southern Sudan is endemic for these diseases and possibly registers one of the highest burdens in Africa,” explains Dr. John Rumunu, Director General for Preventive Medicine. The MOH and its partner, the Malaria Consortium, have conducted a situation analysis and formulated a three-year strategic plan for integrated control of the five NTDs.
The strategic plan outlines core strategies to reach high coverage in all endemic communities through mass drug administration (MDA) and other interventions necessary for NTD prevention. These strategies include rapid mapping of NTDs to establish their prevalence, development of integrated intervention packages, delivery of these packages to high-prevalence areas, and systematic collection, monitoring, and evaluation of data to ensure evidence-based NTD control. To coordinate and monitor the implementation of the national strategic plan, the National Integrated NTD Control Technical Committee was established. Its members include representatives from existing disease-specific national programs, WHO, and partner nongovernmental organizations, as well as guest representatives from other countries, such as Uganda, who share their integrated NTD control experiences.
The Government of Sudan recognizes that the commitment of state authorities is a key component for the success of the Program. To build local commitment, NTD integration committees have also been established in Western Equatoria and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where the first prevalence surveys will take place and where integrated MDA could start as early as the first half of 2009.