Coronavirus cases confirmed inside UN civilian protection site in South Sudan

The South Sudanese government has confirmed two cases of COVID-19 have been registered inside a civilians protection site in the capital, Juba. The site has about 30,000 people who sought protection there at the height of a civil war in the world’s youngest nation.

According to the UN Peace Keeping Mission in South Sudan, although it’s devastating, the appearance of cases within one of the camps in the capital was not unexpected, given the rising number of cases confirmed within communities across the city. The country has so far confirmed 74 cases of COVID-19.

Aid workers in South Sudan have warned that treatment options for severe COVID-19 cases are scarce, and with little isolation centres in place. Most of those infected so far, have reportedly been treated at home, although an isolation unit at the Dr John Garang Infectious Diseases Unit is reportedly being expanded from 24 beds to 80.

The mission is now urging displaced people in the sites to follow prevention measures such as social distancing, handwashing, and isolating themselves if they become sick. Efforts are now being made to double the water supply and increase the number of handwashing facilities in these sites.

Recently, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN human rights office (OHCHR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that refugees, migrants and displaced persons are at heightened risk of contracting the new coronavirus disease.

“Three-quarters of the world’s refugees and many migrants are hosted in developing regions where health systems are already overwhelmed and under-capacitated,” they stated. Many of them live in overcrowded camps, settlements, makeshift shelters or reception centres, where they lack adequate access to health services, clean water and sanitation.

The entities called on countries to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable populations against the rapidly expanding COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent months, the brutal conflict that left tens-of-thousands dead and millions displaced, has abated, with the formation in mid-March of a new unity cabinet, in which Dr Riek Machar returned to the Vice-Presidency, fulfilling a chief condition of a comprehensive 2018 peace agreement.