As it comes to light that our central government spent US$ 43 million on 4 attack helicopters, the Canadian government in collaboration with Dutch Cordaid and WHO starts construction of a maternity ward in Torit.
In the same week that it came to light that the central government bought at least four attack helicopters in 2014 from a Ukrainian company at a cost of nearly US$ 43 million, the National Health Minister Dr. Riek Gai Kok, made the trip from Juba to lay a foundation stone to inaugurate construction of a foreign funded maternity ward at Torit Civil Hospital. Dr. Kok was accompanied by the Former Eastern Equatoria State Health Minister, Dr. Margaret Itto Leonardo.
The maternity ward is projected to cost US$ 600,000 to construct and is fully funded by the Canadian government as part of its pledge to provide US$ 100 million for maternal and child health care worldwide. South Sudan has been selected as a primary recipient. The Dutch NGO, Cordaid is contributing an additional US$ 200,000 to build two classroom blocks, a dormitory, a store and a library for the hospital’s nursing school.
The colonial era hospital was originally built in 1947. The hospital has since only benefited from sporadic investment. The underinvestment continued into the CPA and post-independence periods, with the SPLM government choosing to prioritise the security sector to the detriment of infrastructure, education and health care provision.
Health workers have repeatedly complained about the consequences of underinvestment. Local authorities have recently appealed once more to the national government for additional funding, noting that the hospital suffered from dilapidated structures and a poorly equipped operating theatre. In 2009, a breakdown of the sanitation system led to accusations that the hospital posed a serious health threat to its own patients.
The welcome assistance from the Canadian government, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and Cordaid, only serves to highlight the central government’s own enduring lack of commitment to service delivery for citizens in Equatoria and the wider nation.