South Sudan: Lobbies Raise Alarm Over COVID-19 Threat to South Sudan

Various South Sudanese stakeholders are expressing fears that the country is likely to experience a catastrophic level of coronavirus infections if authorities do not strictly enforce measures.

As of Wednesday, the country confirmed new 188 Covid-19 cases, which brought the total number of confirmed cases nationwide to 994, with six recoveries and 10 deaths.

South Sudan was the last country to confirm its first Covid-19 case since the outbreak in the region, but now it second to Kenya in the region with the numbers of cases, having skipped Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.

Speaking to The EastAfrican on Wednesday in Juba, various stakeholders said that if authorities don't act fast to fix the current crisis, the country will have the highest Covid-19 numbers in the region.

Matiop Kuol Akech, a resident of Lologo suburb in Juba, says the virus will mostly affect the livelihoods of the vulnerable population if not properly handled. He was worried that increased cases are interfering with people's planned activities affecting future prospects of business.

"In addition, people in the grassroots are not well informed about the dangers of the pandemic. The more the locals mingle among themselves, the more the cases will increase, something that is happening currently and worrying," Mr Matiop stressed.

He wants the government to prioritise grassroots awareness campaigns

The national taskforce on Covid-19 in a statement recently recommended wearing of facemasks countrywide as compulsory.

However, a quick survey in Juba, shows there is no complying to the directive, with a minimal number of people wearing facemasks.

Asked why they couldn't comply with the order, some said they cannot afford them.

The country has received donations of masks but these have not reached everyone and if Juba residents have a problem getting one, those in rural areas stand no chance of even seeing one.

Susan Pascale is the executive director of Woman Advancement Organisation-- a community based civil society group that recently embarked on massive production of facemasks meant for local use in Juba.

She said due to the vulnerability and high poverty in suburbs of Kondokoro and Gudele in Juba and Luri County, the organisation chose to produce local reusable masks to save lives.

"We don't know whether the laboratory has the capacity to test as many Covid-19 samples as it should. Up to now, thousands don't know their status. The public continue to mingle in burials, bars and in markets.

Preventive measures

Since President Kiir reconstituted the High-Level Taskforce last week, the new body has not made any positive move in curbing the spread of the virus, according to a civil society activist Jame Kolok, the executive director of Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance. He called on the public to implement the preventive measures, stressing that the current government is relaxed protecting them.

"The future look so dark and that we as South Sudanese are worried of number of infections we are going to have as a country. There have been many orders issued by the presidency and the law enforcement agencies have done minimal enforcement.

"We as civil society advise the citizens that its their responsibly to protect themselves, because we have reached a stage were we cannot no-longer rely on the government and the taskforce that cannot enforce their rules" sad Mr Kolok.

High risk areas

In response, the spokesman of South Sudan's national Health ministry, Dr Loi Thuoi confirmed that country is at high risks of experiencing a full virus blowout.

"We may have full Covid-19 blowout if we don't implement preventive measures. Something that will be difficult for our country to control, because we have a weak health infrastructure, in addition to the human resource capacity that is weak to deal with massive spread of the virus.

"We call on various donors to collectively support us in order to widened massive campaigns and mass production of masks to be distributed for free or sold at affordable prices" said Dr Thuoi.

Last week, a policy brief paper released by South Sudan's Sudd Research Institute, a think-tank based in Juba, stated that South Sudanese women have the highest risk of contracting the virus.

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