South Sudan: Strengthening civil service to continue vital support

 Performing surgery at a hospital in South Sudan
Dr. Bowembo Kakande, the only surgeon at a hospital in Western Bahr Gazal that receives 40 – 50 patients a day. Photo: UNDP in South Sudan

For most people, moving to a new country to work can be full of surprises. But for Yenew Azale, a trained nurse from Ethiopia working in South Sudan, adjusting to a new job has included being evacuated because of intense fighting.

“Not everything is as I had expected,” he says. “But I feel a great sense of achievement because I started from scratch. When we started on the ground, working with the people of South Sudan there was no clinic, no coordination with partners and very few drug supplies.”


  • UNDP provides coaching and mentoring programmes for civil servants in South Sudan.
  • The programme began in 2010, and has been bolstered in response to the crisis, to run through 2016.
  • Budget: US$ 26 million from the Government of Norway 2014 -– 2016

Azale provides medical care to prisoners, prison staff and their family members. Together with several other nurses, he has been working at the Juba Prison Service medical centre since early April, after being evacuated from Jonglei State in mid-December. He is one of close to 200 nurses, doctors, other medical practitioners and civil servants who have recently been recruited from Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya and deployed to 10 states to keep the health and other essential government services working in the country.

South Sudan has been mired in conflict since December 2013. Armed violence, compounded by a breakdown in security, state authority and the rule of law, has resulted in thousands of deaths, forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and created an escalating humanitarian crises. Many civil servants have fled and this has exacerbated suffering. The need for health services, education and livelihoods opportunities is as urgent as ever.

Using an innovative approach that relies on assistance from the governments of other developing countries in the region, UNDP has facilitated the temporary recruitment of civil servants such as Azale on a two-year contract. Their salaries are paid by their home countries, and supplemented with a stipend from the Government of Norway.

Besides providing services to the stricken population, the officers are paired with more than 200 South Sudanese nationals to provide mentoring and coaching in such areas as legal counseling, education, health, vocational training and social welfare. At the same time, some of the civil servants taking part in the scheme are running a vocational training programme that offers training for close to 200 young people in the capital, Juba, in such fields as plumbing, carpentry, mechanics, wielding, electrical wiring and construction.

“As a Civil Service Support Officer I feel happy that I have helped to develop the skills of doctors and medical officers who are working here," says Dr. Buwembo Kakande, who is the only surgeon at a hospital in Wau, Western Bahr Gazal that receives 40 – 50 patients a day. "Now my team is able to handle some surgeries independently.”

Despite a lack of infrastructure, transportation, and high insecurity, civil service support officers have begun to make a difference. Offices are now up and running and standardized systems, procedures, budgeting and strategic plans are in place to deliver services more efficiently.

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