April 3rd, 2020
South Sudan and COVID-19
As the world’s attention is focused on the Coronavirus outbreak, in South Sudan preventative measures are being taken as the number of cases across Africa begins to grow. According to figures provided by WHO, in the last two weeks the number of cases in the continent has increased exponentially, from 450 on 17th March to 4,861 on 30th. Thus far, no cases have been confirmed in South Sudan but the virus has reached neighbouring Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Like other governments across the globe, South Sudan has planned a series of measures to attempt to curb this spread. The government has placed restrictions on inbound and outbound flights, affected citizens have been ordered to self-quarantine and mass gatherings are prohibited.
Whilst these measures will help to avoid further mass outbreaks, the virus still represents a very real threat to the world’s youngest country. Seven years of civil war have drained emergency resources and severely limited services. As a result of the conflict, more than 1.5 million people remain internally displaced, hundreds of thousands of whom live in cramped refugee camps. It often takes people hours, or even days to reach healthcare facilities, with the leading cause of death often being preventable, treatable diseases like malaria and diarrhoea. There are also limited facilities for isolation; according to Dr. Angok Gordon Kuol, incident manager for the outbreak at the ministry of health, the government has just 24 isolation beds.
Ultimately, those with the least will be hit hardest by the virus. Thousands of South Sudanese people are already in dire need of aid, sanitation and medical care. Another area for concern is South Sudan’s prison system and its National Security Service detention sites, which reportedly continue to be overcrowded, unsanitary, and lack inadequate medical care.
Additionally, South Sudan can expect to experience financial repercussions from the outbreak. The country heavily relies on the export of oil. Revenue will be severely impacted by the collapse of the world oil prices amidst the outbreak. Plummeting international commodity prices will result in heavy losses in export earnings, meaning the trade deficit will widen.
Moreover, whilst it is too early to predict, factory shutdowns in China, import bans, increased shipping and freight costs, suspension of flights and restrictions on the movement of goods and people could potentially disrupt trade and market chains with knock-on effects on imported food prices. This will likely cause an economic shock effect for South Sudan, a country that relies heavily on imports and has huge supply-chain exposure to China.
In conclusion, whatever the effectiveness of the preventative measures the South Sudanese government is putting in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, the country is likely to be affected if only through knocks to their struggling economy.
By Abbie Brooks, Fundraising Intern
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