Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 29 March 2020

What does it means to fight COVID-19 in South Sudan?


By Riak Machar Pathot

Our country and the global community are currently confronted and in fear with the serious risk of a pandemic with the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid -19).

What we need from the Government today is the careful and considered management of this threat through sensible and real action that will protect our people from this deadly virus that is taking humans lives aggressively. It is so terrible.

This includes border protection measures that are being properly implemented, the monitoring of all potentially at-risk travellers after their arrival, and co-operation with our neighbouring countries to share information and resources and to assist our citizens in affected countries.

Almost every country in the world has put in place screening measures to check for infected travellers at their borders ( We very much and urgently need to do this exercise on borders to our friendly neighbouring countries including; Uganda ,Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC , CAR and Kenya have this measures in place ). Do you have these measures in place ? .

But I have recently heard that South Sudanese travellers coming from Dubai with Ethiopians Airline sneaking by Elegu district, Uganda border with South Sudan and that there are no checkpoints in place, and if they do sign a declaration stating their travel history, there are not any border officials assigned to collect the documents. My fear is in that border.

What does it mean to fight Coronavirus in South Sudan?

We do not need more government talk and promises, we need action before it is too late.

We need the Health Ministry and the Taskforce to confirm that isolation facilities are ready in case they are required to treat virus carriers ,or in case we confirmed coronavirus carriers later .

There have been talks of a virus isolation unit being prepared, but we need to see the proof and reassure our people that this is not just talk.

We must also be ready today to manage not just a handful of people with infections, but if this does become a pandemic, we must be ready to care for many, many more patients if the need arises.

The government must also recognise that this is a different virus to many previous diseases to the incubation period, during which time an infected person is contagious but is not showing any symptoms.

This means that the government must have in place measures for travellers to seek immediate assistance if they start showing symptoms in the days after their arrival.

Another important point that has to be taken into account is that the virus is not race-based, so it is nonsensical to talk about banning Chinese, Africans National and other Asian travellers and stopping flights from Asian countries and letting -go the European and American citizens as Americans Embassy in Juba have announced flight to the American citizens to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia earlier this morning. Why banning other nationals and leave others unbanned. What’s different?

Any traveller, regardless of their country, race, could have contracted the virus if they visited affected areas in China, Uganda, South Africa Egypt and indeed if they had come into contact with someone with the virus.

Two cases have already been confirmed in people who have not travelled to China, but South Sudanese who came from Dubai along with Ugandans national and are now in isolation Center in Uganda. Do you have regular contacts with Ugandan authority?.

Placing an indefinite ban on Asian and Africans flights will not stop the virus from entering the country, but will just harm the economy by stopping business travel at a time when the economy is struggling because of a lack of business confidence.

At this point in time no other country in the world is placing an indefinite ban on international flights, so while this option should not be discounted entirely, now is not the time. There is no point implementing knee-jerk response ideas that will not be effective in protecting our people but will hurt our people as the country isolates itself.

This is why our government must consult closely with our partner countries to learn from each other in order to adopt sensible protection measures.

Further to this, it would be prudent for our government to consult with China on the possibility of any South Sudan’s citizens currently in China to be evacuated. We have a probably small number of our citizens in China and I would attest that our government would just be open to providing support if resources are available.
To date, there is a lot of frustration from our people who are in affected countries over a lack of information and support from the country’s government .they’ll direly need government support because these people are now unable to work and their daily livelihood is terribly unquestionable because they are probably suspended due to the outbreak of this virus.
Make no mistake, this virus is serious and the potential loss of life is massive, and because of this we must have comprehensive and properly considered national Government action.


The author is a South Sudanese Human Rights activist living in Cairo, Egypt. Can be reached via electronic email:riakmacharpathot@gmail. com

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