By the middle of July, South Sudan had officially confirmed over 2,200 cases of COVID-19 and 45 deaths. The first official case of the virus was confirmed on the 5th of April. As a result, the Government of South Sudan introduced restrictions on public gatherings, non-essential commercial activities and travel including curfews. GOAL has adapted its programmes to address COVID-19 while striving to continue to implement ongoing programmes safely.
South Sudan only achieved independence in 2011. Since then it has experienced many challenges, including civil war which has taken a toll on the country’s health infrastructure. South Sudan is one of the more vulnerable countries in Africa. While it has yet to see a major outbreak of COVID-19, there is evidence of growing community transmission and there are fears the virus may overwhelm the fragile health system. The country is home to 11 million people, but reports suggest there are only four ventilators and testing capacity is limited across the country meaning it is difficult to truly understand the scale of the outbreak.
With limited healthcare capacity, prevention of transmission is the key to combating COVID-19. The first step is to raise public awareness of the virus and provide health information to vulnerable communities. With limited access to the internet and other mass media (radio and television), traditional local communication systems are essential in ensuring this message reaches as many people as possible. To date, GOAL has reached over 660,000 people – over 400,000 through face-to-face messaging and another 260,000 through megaphone messaging in communities.
Community Led Action (CLA)
GOAL is educating and training local leaders to prepare their communities for COVID-19 prevention through the Community-Led Action (CLA) approach developed during the Ebola Crisis in West Africa in 2014. This enables communities to learn prevention techniques and best practice in their own language from local leaders whom they know and trust. So far 45 community leaders, 63 community mobilizers and 29 CLA facilitators have been trained in the CLA methodology in South Sudan. 32 communities comprising of 455 neighbourhood units have completed mapping exercises. 47% of these neighbourhoods have already started COVID-19 prevention in their respective communities.
GOAL will also train local NGO partners in South Sudan on the CLA approach.
Local Health Systems
Over one tonne of personal protection equipment (PPE) is being supplied by GOAL to health facilities and staff in South Sudan to help protect against infection. More than 15 tonnes of additional infection prevention and programme supplies have been airlifted from the capital Juba to sites in Upper Nile which have no road access.
COVID-19 Local Coordination
GOAL is coordinating efforts with various government ministries and other national and international aid agencies. In the Abyei Administrative Area, GOAL was nominated as lead agency for risk communication and coordination working with the State Ministry of Health (SMoH) and the COVID-19 cluster. Since March, GOAL has coordinated 16 sessions of the COVID-19 cluster culminating in the donation of an ambulance for Ametbek Hospital which is managed by UNISFA (the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei) for COVID-19 interventions.
GOAL is also co-lead of the COVID-19 cluster in Kajo-Keji in the Central Equatoria state.