How coronavirus is affecting South Sudan

13 July 2020

South Sudan has endured years of conflict, suffered a serious food crisis in 2017, and now faces coronavirus.

South Sudan has endured years of conflict, suffered a serious food crisis in 2017, and now faces coronavirus.

South Sudan became the newest country in the world in 2011.

Decades of fighting before independence, and more conflict afterwards, has made millions of people homeless. Many thousands of families have been made homeless within South Sudan or are now living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

A serious food crisis engulfed South Sudan three years ago, and farming families who are still recovering now face coronavirus.

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Our brothers and sisters in South Sudan will now experience the coronavirus as a crisis on top of a crisis. Ibrahim Njuguna, CAFOD’s country representative for South Sudan, explains how your support is making a difference.

What was the situation in South Sudan before coronavirus?

The most recent peace agreement was signed in 2018 and has largely held, though there are ongoing reports of serious local conflicts.

Many communities lack basic needs – last year, nearly seven million people were regularly going hungry and over five million don’t have any access to safe water.

Not having enough food, or clean water to wash your hands, makes the coronavirus a devastating threat to families in South Sudan.

How has the government responded to coronavirus?

The government in South Sudan has established a high-level task force, and they have set up a night-time curfew, a reduction of business hours, and social distancing in shops and on forms of transport.

However, in the poor communities we work with, families are challenged by the need to continue working to either grow crops or earn money so they can eat, despite the risks of coronavirus.

This is against the backdrop of a fragile healthcare system, that doesn’t cover all people and areas. Clinics and other healthcare providers are at real risk of being completely overwhelmed.

How is CAFOD responding to coronavirus in South Sudan?

You are supporting local organisations who have on-the-ground expertise to tackle coronavirus and help more families survive.

We are working together to deliver vital hygiene messages via radio, and even via megaphones in hard-to-reach areas. Community groups are translating these messages into local languages so that they can be heard and understood by as many people as possible.

We are also working with women’s groups to protect wives, mothers and girlfriends from the risk of domestic violence during lockdown.

How has your work changed since the outbreak?

We need to continue delivering peace building projects, as well as responding to the immediate needs of communities during this emergency.

We are following advice from the World Health Organization and the government to reduce the numbers of people at training sessions, increasing handwashing, and translating all materials into local languages.

The window for planting seeds before the rains come is fast approaching, and so it is really important that we react quickly.

We are getting seeds to farming families along with emergency food packages, and continuing to provide practical training and help so that they can adapt to climate change.

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