A SECOND wave of the coronavirus is believed to be under way in South Sudan, owing in part to an influx of refugees who are fleeing conflict in Ethiopia, as well as South Sudanese refugees returning home from Rwanda and Uganda.
Limited testing facilities mean that, on paper, the country appears to have had only 3000 cases of the virus. The real figure is thought to be far higher.
The International Monetary Fund last week gave South Sudan an emergency loan of $52 million (£39 million) to help the country weather the economic shock of the pandemic. This is the first time that South Sudan has received funds from the IMF. South Sudan’s economy is dependent on oil exports, which have undergone a sharp decline in price during the pandemic.
After years of conflict and weather-related hardships, half the population of South Sudan is facing hunger and malnutrition, and 40 per cent of the population are internally displaced or living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
The UK charity Feed the Minds has received funding from the UK Government to provide emergency food packages to those who are particularly vulnerable, such as people with disabilities, in South Sudan. Working on the ground with the Sudan Evangelical Mission, the parcels provide food, soap, and seeds for crops.
The director of Feed the Minds, Sandra Golding, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is causing widespread uncertainty for people everywhere. For people living in extreme poverty, or for communities affected by conflict or climate change, the pandemic has, in many cases, had devastating consequences. This project is going to help us respond to the global emergency and reach people with life-saving food packages and information on Covid-19.”
In neighbouring Sudan, which has also experienced an influx of refugees from Ethiopia, seven doctors have died from the virus in the space of ten days.
The government is considering a total lockdown after a recent surge of cases in the country. The Acting Health Minister, Osama Abdul Rahim, who has himself recently recovered from Covid, has described the rise in cases as “terrifying”.
Sudan has been making steps towards religious freedom this year: a peace agreement has been signed between the joint military-civilian transitional council and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, which agreed that Islam would be removed as the state religion.
In an interview with the magazine Christianity Today last week, the Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Revd Ezekiel Kumir Kondo, acknowledged that there had been some progress, including the repeal of the apostasy law, but said that it would take people a “long time to get used to the change in the apostasy law”.
“While there is an official change on paper, in practice I do not think it will change much. Islam is a culture. You can be protected by law, but you cannot be protected from your relatives or the community.”
He asked for the rest of the world not to tire of praying for the Sudanese people: “Pray that what has been done in this revolution will be implemented. Pray the same for the peace deals signed with some of the armed groups, and that others will sign. It is only a partial peace right now, not complete.”