Graduate is transforming HIV services for pregnant women in South Sudan
- Charles’ job is to help train and mentor health staff
- To help in his role, Charles took a distance learning course at The University of Manchester
A doctor who graduated at The University of Manchester last week (10 December 2014) is already using his skills in the world’s newest country to transform the way authorities care for pregnant women.
Charles Nwosisi is originally from Nigeria but has been based in Juba, the capital of South Sudan for the last month. Working for an NGO, he is tasked with bringing his expertise to improve health outcomes through the work in 22 health facilities across the country which has a population of about 10 million people.
The newest country in the world is still building up its infrastructure and needs human resources dedicated to health care service delivery. UNAIDS estimates HIV prevalence to be about 2.2%. Charles’ job is to help train and mentor health staff who are often non-specialists on reproductive health care and to increase the number of pregnant women being tested for HIV in the country.
He said: “Staff in South Sudan are often very enthusiastic, but deal with a heavy workload and a shortage of supplies and equipment, so providing technical help to make the most of the resources they do have is crucial to transforming the situation.”
To help in his role, Charles took a distance learning course at The University of Manchester. The Master’s degree of Public Health covers subjects such as epidemiology, biostatistics, evidence-based practice and primary health care. In his previous role planning health services in Nigeria he was able to apply his learning directly to practice by using data to predict the areas which would need facilities for HIV testing among pregnant women and then working to resource these facilities.
Staff in South Sudan are often very enthusiastic, but deal with a heavy workload and a shortage of supplies and equipment, so providing technical help to make the most of the resources they do have is crucial to transforming the situation.
Originally graduating from medical school in Lagos, Charles moved into public health following postings in more remote areas of Nigeria. During a year in a village health centre where alongside, other health care workers had to treat many children with preventable illness and deliver pregnant women without electricity. This inspired him to focus his career on prevention and improving public health services.
He said: “Primary care in lower income countries is all about mobilising resources where they’re most needed – for example having HIV centres which people can travel to. In South Sudan that is a challenge as there are few roads and few trained medics, but by providing support to the people already working there we can improve standards dramatically.”
While he admits the situation in South Sudan is challenging – with long distance travels in very difficult terrain to get to all the health facilities – Charles is determined to stay in the country and carry out his job. “I miss Nigeria, but I feel I’m useful where I am and helping the people of South Sudan,” he said.
One of Charles’ tutors, Judith Clegg said: “Charles is one of our students who is making a big difference to health services in one of the countries that most needs help.
“His experience on the ground is invaluable both to the communities that he serves but also to us as a Master in Public Health Programme. I’ve already asked him if he’ll give feedback on the course to help us to further meet the needs of students who come from low and middle income countries and I am hoping that he will be one our first Alumni Ambassadors for the Programme!”