Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Clinical Officers in Southern Sudan

David Manana, Senior Health Tutor, Marie Meckel PA-C, MPH, Nadia Cobb MS, PA-C

In 1998 at the height of the civil war in Southern Sudan the profession of Clinical Officer (analogue to the Physician Assistant) was developed.  Southern Sudan is estimated to have less than 100 medical doctors for the country’s 10 million people. Modeling after other African nations, the clinical officer was seen as a critical cadre of health care provider to increase access to care.  

Full project description: 

Southern Sudan has many barriers to health care delivery, not only is there a critical shortage of health care personnel, there is also a lack of health care infrastructure, which was destroyed during the civil war. Infant mortality is 104/1,000 live births2, and the maternal mortality ratio is estimated at 2,054 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births1,2. It is estimated that 80% of health care delivery is through NGOs. 2 Ninety percent of the global burden of guinea worm disease is in S. Sudan2. The clinical officer is seen part of the solution to Southern Sudan’s health care needs. The training of the clinical officer takes half as long as the medical doctor, and in Southern Sudan costs one fifth.

Amref Health Africa opened the Maridi National Health Training Institute where the Clinical Officer training program is housed. Since 1998 450 Clinical Officers have graduated3. Due to the fact that students are recruited from rural areas, the retention rates are quite high and currently it is estimated that 99% of Clinical Officers work in rural health centers and hospitals3.

The training program is three years in duration. With the help of the Southern Sudanese government students are recruited from local rural communities and then after attending Maridi National Health Training Institute where they study anatomy, physiology, orthopedics, pubic health, history taking, pharmacology, psychology, and psychiatry.  They develop their clinical skills in minor surgical procedures and patient care at health centers and hospitals. These are necessary skills needed for these Clinical Officers to work in their rural work environments.

The government would like to increase the number of clinical officers and it has a goal of producing 5,000 clinical officers.

Other training institutes are currently being developed. Currently AMREF supports the training sites but the Ministry of Health is working closely with AMREF to support these new professionals; the government is clearly invested in the clinical officer and sees the value of creating this cadre of health care professionals.

Grace’s story :

Photo courtesy of:


  1. UNDP Southern Sudan
  2. WHO Country Cooperative Strategy: South Sudan
  3. AMREF

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