South Sudan

Health experts inform internally displaced people at UNMISS protection site in Malakal how to prevent COVID-19

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Learning by doing: adequate social distancing at a Malakal awareness-raising session on COVID-19 prevention. © UNMISS

NYANG TOUCH

Health professionals have raised awareness among the leadership of the almost 28,000 internally displaced people staying at the UN protection site in Malakal on how to prevent an outbreak of the pandemic Coronavirus among themselves.

“Don’t spread myths and don’t follow harmful traditions. Please share the reliable, scientific facts that we are giving you today with the thousands of people who are residing here in the protection site,” Dr. Emmanuel Timothy Thowl from the World Health Organization, WHO, urged the 40 community leaders attending the educational session.

One key preventive strategy, social distancing, was demonstrated in practice as participants and facilitators were kept strictly at least one metre away from each other. More crucial advice provided included frequent hand washing, avoiding touching one’s face, COVID-19-safe greetings, sneezing and coughing with caution and other hygienic practices to follow at all times.

The awareness-raising workshop, which will be replicated in the town of Renk, near the border with Sudan, was conducted by the Malakal Health Cluster. Apart from the World Health Organization, it includes the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and other humanitarian partners.

As the youngest and one of the poorest nations on earth, South Sudan is at high risk, given the severely limited health services at its disposal. The densely populated protection sites for internally displaced people are of particular concern, given that practicing social distancing in these environments is more challenging than in most other places. Yet, it has to be done to the greatest extent possible to keep everyone, including humanitarian workers, safe.

“As leaders of your community, your role is to keep your people informed about these measures of prevention. From now on, it is our collective responsibility,” emphasised Hazel Dewet, head of the UNMISS field office in Malakal.

Yesterday (25 March), the United Nations launched a 2-billion-dollar global humanitarian appeal to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the most vulnerable countries across the world.