This bi-weekly bulletin is designed for and by media partners, journalists and other interested stakeholders in South Sudan reporting and working on COVID-19, and other related health and development challenges. It shares citizen concerns on COVID-19 and the humanitarian response, provides verified information about health measures of the Ministry of Health and partners and profiles trustworthy (re)sources.
Reopening & COVID-19 “denial”
On 28 August, the Secretary-General of Islamic Council has announced the resumption of Friday prayers in mosques across the country after months of suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Islamic Council, the reopening of the mosques and prayers comes following consultations with the National COVID-19 Taskforce (Source: Eye Media). In Malakal, Internews partners report that religious leaders reported being concerned about “the lack of face masks amongst church visitors”, which they fear would increase disease risk inside churches.
The World Health Organization reports that religious gatherings that don’t follow COVID-19 guidelines have the potential to spread the virus amongst the population (Source: WHO). Infection can be prevented, reports WHO, by ensuring that hand washing stations and temperature checks are in place at religious sites, by regulating entry, and by ensuring the right level of physical distance between people. Additionally, religious leaders should explore alternative ways of safe religious observance” (Source: WHO).
Additionally, in Juba, Bentiu and Malakal Internews media partners reported that citizens are unsure about the existence of COVID-19 in the country, or report to: “be tired of COVID-19”. For example, a 30-year-old woman in Bentiu PoC reported to an IOM staff member :“So many people are not so sure of the presence of COVID-19 because there is no machine for testing to prove it.” (Source: IOM,
CCEWG). In Juba, it was reported that radio stations increasingly receive calls from people stating that the whole population is “immune” to COVID-19. For example, as a journalist reported “they say the whole of Juba is now immune already for months”, and “that the humanitarians are just making up COVID-19 to make money”.
Misinformation and rumors around COVID-19 and the response remain common, report journalists during a media training organized by Internews. The persistent concerns include that “black people can’t get COVID-19”, that alcohol and herbal tea can prevent people from getting ill, and that “rain and flooding washed away COVID-19”. The World Health Organization has developed some useful visual myth-busters which can be used to challenge some of these persistent concerns related to the COVID-19 virus and response mechanisms in South Sudan (see: here).