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Aseel Salih

Strengthening Health Policy in Sudan 

Aseel Salih’s mother’s muscular dystrophy prompted her family to visit many hospitals in their native Sudan over the course of her life. But their experience was frequently disappointing—the hospitals often lacked the manpower, expertise, and resources to provide effective care.

Later, when she attended rotations in hospitals for her pharmacy degree, she found similar shortcomings. The facilities she served regularly lacked essential medications and lost electricity unexpectedly during operations.  

“I have always been agonized by the reality of the Sudanese people’s continuous suffering from inequalities and access to health care.”

These problems drew Salih to public health and to develop and implement her own interventions with student colleagues, including campaigns to educate women on the unhealthy effects of skin-bleaching creams and to educate the public about antibiotic overuse. These efforts gained the attention of Sudan’s Ministry of Health, where she took a position at the Health Planning and Policy Directorate, later moving to the Global Health Directorate. At age 24, serving as the youngest government health official, she helped analyze and draft the country’s national health policy, developed risk communication aimed at youth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and represented her country at the WHO’s 74th World Health Assembly in 2021. 

After fleeing her country’s civil war earlier this year, Salih plans to focus on policy and humanitarian health at the Bloomberg School to eventually shore up her country’s health system and to improve health systems globally, with attention to African low- and middle-income countries to strengthen humanitarian health policies. 

“I believe that health equity isn’t a dream and could be a reality with the right knowledge and tools,” Salih says.