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South Sudanese fleeing violence in a camp for IDPs South Sudanese fleeing violence in a camp for IDPs   (AFP or licensors)

Coronavirus: vulnerable populations at risk in South Sudan

South Sudan’s government has put measures into place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but millions of displaced people are at heightened risk.

By Linda Bordoni

Like other governments across the globe, South Sudan has planned a series of measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic.

A ban has been placed on inbound and outbound flights, affected citizens have been ordered to self-quarantine and mass gatherings are prohibited.

But the reality on the ground in the world’s youngest country is complex. Seven years of civil war have torn the country apart, contributing to very limited services and creating emergencies for displaced people and prisoners.

Internally displaced persons

More than 1.5 million people remain internally displaced as a result of conflict, with hundreds of thousands of them living in cramped refugee camps.

Thousands more, who fled recent intercommunal fighting, are already in dire need of aid, including sanitation and medical care.

Detention centers

Meanwhile, South Sudan’s prisons and its National Security Service detention sites reportedly continue to be overcrowded, unsanitary, and with inadequate medical care.

None of these are contexts in which social isolation alone can be reasonably counted on to limit the spread of the virus.

Although fragile, at this dramatic time of global crisis, South Sudan’s new unity government is called to step-up action to achieve two important goals: uphold basic human rights by providing accurate information - including freedom of press - and more health care services, and take steps to responsibly contain the global health threat.

25 March 2020, 15:52