In April of 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) carried out a joint mission to identify capabilities, gaps and opportunities for applied epidemiology capacity in Sudan. The mission recommended capacity building in epidemiology and outbreak response.
The Strategic Plan for Epidemiology and Zoonotic Diseases 2012-16, with the support of a CDC mission, assessed the training gap for epidemiologists at the locality, state and federal levels. It was estimated at the time that 420 care providers (frontline staff), 189 current staff in localities needed to be trained in applied epidemiology which is based on learning while doing, 54 at the state level, and 18 at the federal level.
Again in 2016, a multi‐sectoral international External Evaluation Team (EET) conducted an assessment based on the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulation (IHR) Joint External Evaluation (JEE) tool, within the findings it was realized that Sudan does not have a Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), or an alternative similar program and thus recommendations included the need for capacity building in the areas of epidemiology and outbreak response. The Public Health Institute also conducted a needs assessment for public health programs in 2019 using the Hensley hicks training needs assessment tool contextualized to Sudan, in the findings, epidemiology was ranked second in what the participants needed to improve performances at the state and locality level.
In 2017 through a productive collaboration between the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET) and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Sudan developed its program for Field Epidemiology (Sudan FETP). The FMOH officially selected the candidates for training from the states and the national level and launched the first batch of the program in 2017. The FMOH worked with Sudan Medical Specialization Board (SMSB) on the curriculum provided by EMPHNET and based on some modification, the SMSB agreed to provide candidates with MSc. certificate upon completion of two years of training. EMPHNET supported fully the training of the first batch of FETP advanced course with 15 residents. The organization also trained supervisors and mentors and supported participation in conferences and meeting. In addition, EMPHNET is committed to working with the country to reach the desired country coverage with field epidemiologists and to collaborate with Sudan to improve surveillance and public health response to epidemics and emergencies.
The field epidemiology training program fulfills an important training need for the strengthening of the health system surveillance, preparedness and response to epidemics. The experience of the first batch was met by several challenges including the scarcity of competent staff to supervise residents in remote areas, the governance of the program, with staff turnover, the limited resources and the instability all over the country during the revolution period. However, the program has recently graduated its first batch of 14 residents distributed in different parts of the country. Through its two-year span, the experiences the residents faced and the amount of learning that they were exposed to accordingly has been remarkable.
As Sudan is a vulnerable country to epidemics, residents were also able to benefit from outbreaks as a learning opportunity while also participating effectively in controlling these outbreaks. The country experienced floods during the rainy season of this year and witnessed six outbreaks including cholera, chikungunya, Rift Valley fever, malaria, dengue and diphtheria in different parts of Sudan. FETP residents were engaged in the investigation, response and control of those outbreaks. FETP residents also contributed to training rapid response teams especially at locality level and in vulnerable states.
A review conducted by the S-FETP revealed that the surveillance system and response were improved with the contribution of the FETP residents as noted by stakeholders in different ministries at the state level who also applauded the critical thinking and reporting skills of residents describing them as knowledgeable resource persons in their field.
Furthermore, Sudan FETP developed a strategic plan for the years 2019-2023. The strategic plan has stated a vision, mission, goals and objectives; its main direction involves increasing coverage by the provision of field epidemiology training at all levels of the health system and ensuring quality training with a goal of accrediting the program in the future.