Context and Needs
South Sudan confirmed the first case of COVID-19 on 5th April 2020, and thus became the 51st African country (out of 54) to confirm a case. As of 27th May, confirmed cases had reached 994 with 10 deaths. The COVID-19 outbreak in South Sudan has struck an already vulnerable country with pre-existing differences and has further aggravated these differences between women, men, girls and boys. For example, women and girls who make up most of frontline health workers, carers at home, community volunteers and mobilisers stand to be overwhelmed with more health and domestic responsibilities with the advent of COVID-19. The restrictions on movement places a higher risk on women to experience Gender Based Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, because women are confined in their homes or camps with abusers. Therefore, it is imperious that the national response plan on COVID-19 is grounded in a strong knowledge of gender dynamics, gender relations, sex and age disaggregated data that considers the differing experiences of all vulnerable groups (IDP’s women and children, disabled women, women and children in refugee camps), the gendered roles, needs, responsibilities and dynamics.
The pandemic stands to exacerbate the vulnerability of women and girls even more so, an already acute food insecurity situation which can worsen and affect pregnant and breast-feeding women. Statistics reveal that 6.1 million of the population already face severe food insecurity and that nearly 1.3 million people aged between 6-59 months are acutely malnourished in South Sudan. Pregnant and breastfeeding women make up 12 percent of all people in South Sudan requiring feeding. The rate of COVID-19 infections is particularly threatening areas with high-density populations such as camps, contexts with weak provision of health care service, WASH facilities, and social protection settings.
Furthermore, South Sudan is vulnerable to COVID-19 due to its weak healthcare system, which has a severe shortage of health workers and is reeling from the effects of a disastrous six-year civil war. Only 22 percent of health facilities are fully functional which has rendered 3.6 million people without any health access and consequently 40 percent of the population have no access to primary health care services.
In addition to the health pandemic in fact, reports indicate South Sudan is among countries most at risk of a hunger pandemic. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), hunger and malnutrition in the country are at the most extreme levels since 2011 with almost 60% of the population struggling to find food every day. While the political violence has subsided in many parts of the country, sporadic intercommunal violence and cattle raids persist in Jonglei, Lakes and central equatorial state. Several factors will exacerbate humanitarian needs in the country over the coming months, including COVID-19, the desert locust invasion, seasonal floods and continued inter-communal clashes. Indeed, the outbreak of this coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created a national health crisis with deep impact in a country already sheltering cumulative paraphernalia of years of protracted conflict, enduring vulnerabilities and weak essential services that have even further left 7.5 million people more than two thirds of the population in need of humanitarian assistance (South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan 2020).
In fact, the government has been urging humanitarian aid agencies to support the fight against COVID19 through awareness raising and mass sensitization and organizations have since shifted attention from readiness to response since South Sudan with its poor health care system require urgent efforts and resources to address the Corona virus (COVID-19) and its impact.
ACT Alliance members-(NCA, Christian Aid, LWF, PRDA, FCA and ICCO-Cooperation) recognizes that COVID-19 significantly impact on the most vulnerable people especially women and girls where already existing factors of gender violence and inequalities are expected to worsen.
To address these challenges in the country, we are responding in collaboration, coordination and cooperation with other humanitarian and faith actors to address most needed intervention in public health, water, sanitation, hygiene, community engagement, food security, livelihoods, community preparedness and prevention, shelter, Mental Health /community based psychosocial support, education and advocacy actions.