The Implications of COVID-19 on South Sudan
COVID-19 is being confronted a variety of ways around the world. The goal of this article is to explain how the virus has already affected South Sudan and the impacts of the virus if it's spread continues to worsen.
South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, making it the youngest country in the world. Early independence celebrated a brief euphoric period, when the South Sudanese people shared great hopes for the future. Unfortunately, South Sudan’s peace was short-lived, when civil conflict broke out in December 2013 and continued into 2019 and even now, even though the latest peace agreement was signed in September 2018 and a new transitional government was partially formed in February 2020. Despite the renewed hope, South Sudan is dealing with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic with fears that it may exacerbate fragile conditions and result in a re-escalation of violence. The United Nations has reported that the peace agreement could be in jeopardy due to continuing resource and other conflicts.
Fortunately, and so far, the COVID-19 situation in South Sudan is not as bad as feared, but it is still early days and serious concerns remain, with four reported cases in April 2020 increasing to at least 156 in mid-May. Major concerns for South Sudan if the outbreak worsens include limited health supplies, large numbers of displaced and refugee populations living in close quarters, and food insecurity. Without proper precautions, South Sudan could see a dramatic rise in reported and unreported cases, especially among its most vulnerable populations.
The spread of misinformation, including that the South Sudanese population could not be infected, that the virus would not survive in South Sudan’s arid climate, and that traditional herbs could cure the virus, hurt South Sudan’s initial efforts to fight the the virus. In countering misinformation, the South Sudanese needed to find a balance between their community lifestyle and proactive measures of social distancing, to limit contact between individuals. Despite the initial difficulties, South Sudan has been able to implement measures to combat the virus, such as the suspension of domestic and international flights (although they have now restarted) and public transportation, and night-time curfews and public gathering bans. South Sudan has also implemented precautionary measures such as staying six-feet apart from non-family members, frequent hand washing, ban on all passenger boda-boda (motorcycle taxis), and the closure of non-essential businesses. We all hope, of course, that these and other efforts will limit the impact of the virus on South Sudan’s people and prevent the virus from adding to or complicating other ongoing challenges.