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COVID-19 confirmed in South Sudan; IRC calls for rapid scale up of support to stop the spread of the disease

Yesterday, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in South Sudan, exposing a population struggling to recover from six years of brutal war to even more suffering amid poor health care, nutrition and access to water and sanitation. With 7.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 6 million people living on the brink of famine, the International Rescue Committee (IRC)  is calling for a rapid increase of funds to help mitigate the spread of the disease.

Less than half of South Sudan’s health care facilities are functioning and many in operation are poorly equipped and understaffed. The IRC reaches 1.1 million people with health care services and other critical programming and has been training our health staff to recognize symptoms and safely isolate suspected cases. 

Caroline Sekyewa, South Sudan Country Director at the IRC, said, 

“The people of South Sudan have already endured six years of terrible war, famine and a collapsed economy. The Unity government only just formed and are now faced with fighting this pandemic. The country has not had enough time to rebuild, and the health care system will not be able to withstand a rapid increase in cases. 

“More than 1.5 million people are internally displaced and almost 200,000 live in overcrowded, cramped camps without access to proper hygiene facilities. Only 34% of households in the country are able to access a borehole or tap stand in less than 30 minutes.

“If we do not act now, many will lose their lives. But, with funding deployed quickly, we can improve the health response, inform the community about the disease and work to mitigate the spread as much as possible, all while continuing our ongoing life-saving work.”

The IRC has more than 400 staff in South Sudan responding to the increasingly dire food insecurity crisis through its support for health, nutrition, reproduction health, women’s protection and empowerment, child protection, and livelihoods and economic recovery. 

The IRC has launched a US $30 million appeal to help us mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the world’s most vulnerable populations. We are working across three key areas: to mitigate and respond to the spread of coronavirus within vulnerable communities; protect IRC staff; and ensure the continuation of our life-saving programming as much as possible across more than 40 countries worldwide. Donate here.

To learn more about IRC’s response click here.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.