Panic over COVID-19 outbreak in refugee camps

South Sudan refugees

South Sudan refugees

from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM, (CAJ News) HUMANITARIAN organisations have warned the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) at refugee sites in South Sudan would be catastrophic to the troubled country.

The first cases of the virus have been confirmed in two sites, known as Protection of Civilians (PoC) displacement camps, in the capital Juba and the northern city of Bentiu.

Two cases haves been confirmed but health agencies are concerned as this means the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the world’s newest country has jumped from six to more than 200 in the last fortnight.

“This sharp increase in COVID-19 patients is very worrying,” lamented Claudio Miglietta, Doctors without Borders (MSF) Head of Mission in South Sudan.

“What is even more concerning is that now COVID-19 has started spreading among the population of some of the largest and most congested displaced persons camps in the country.”

Miglietta said co-morbidities including malnutrition, respiratory tract infections, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV were prevalent in camps.

“It is easy to see how the spread of COVID-19 could have catastrophic consequences in South Sudan,” Miglietta said.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) however stated the appearance of cases in PoC sites was expected given the rising number of cases confirmed within communities, especially in Juba.

Stéphane Dujarric, the UN spokesperson, urged people in the sites to follow prevention measures such as social distancing, hand-washing, and isolating themselves if they became sick.

However, owing to congestion, this is largely unfeasible.

“Maintaining physical distance and adequate hygiene levels in these settings is nearly impossible,” Miglietta said.

Conflict has ravaged South Sudan since independence in 2011.

– CAJ News

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