JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan, formally The Republic of South Sudan, is a rural, impoverished country in east-central Africa. It gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. Since then, South Sudan has worked diligently to rebuild its economy and create a better life for all Sudanese people. There are many challenges that come with stabilizing the economy, such as continuing a consistent food supply and protecting those most vulnerable. However, these challenges are amplified as the country is facing a pandemic that is affecting the lives of people worldwide. COVID-19 in South Sudan is a serious threat. Here is how it is fighting back.
COVID-19 In South Sudan
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, primarily spreads person to person through direct or close contact. It can be deadly if not treated appropriately. The CDC confirmed the first known case of COVID-19 in South Sudan on Apr. 5, 2020. As of May 26, there were a total of 806 confirmed cases. The healthcare system in South Sudan lacks access to resources and has very limited staffing. Living in a rural community, the South Sudanese people regularly suffer from preventable diseases and a scarce number of healthcare facilities.
With travel and movement restrictions in place, maintaining work and daily life is extremely difficult for heavily impoverished communities. These communities rely on labor to provide food and other products needed to meet basic needs. COVID-19 is incredibly contagious and with the conditions in the country after “six years of civil war” already wavering, the virus poses an immense threat to all.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is working directly with the South Sudanese health authorities to bring aid to those affected by COVID-19. The John Garang Infectious Diseases Unit (IDU) originally opened in 2018 as part of the “emergency preparedness and response efforts” for the Ebola Virus. IDU has now repurposed the unit during this time in an effort to meet the current need of the South Sudanese people.
The unit acts as “a temperature-controlled dispensing pharmacy and a fully operational laundry facility” to control and prevent the spread of the virus. IDU is made up of clinicians from the Ministry of Health and the International Medical Corps. It has taken measures to retrain personnel in enhancing supportive care for patients affected by COVID-19. The IDU is working to increase the number of beds from 24 to 80 as well as increase patient intake and the resources available. It is also taking measures to separate high-risk patients from other civilians who are seeking care to ensure that all people receive the medical attention they need.
While the price of food and access to resources continues to be an issue for the people of South Sudan, the overall economy of the country has seen positive growth. The World Bank reports that the economy has seen a climb from 3.2% between 2018 and 2019 to the current projection for 2020, which is predicted to reach 7.9%. This shift brings hope for a consistent incline. Reinvesting this growth into the country’s food systems, service delivery and healthcare systems will slowly bring basic necessities to the fight of COVID-19 in South Sudan.
– Katie Mote