JUBA — The European Union (EU) has donated 65 tons of personal protective equipment (PPE) worth 4.7 million U.S. dollars to boost protection of humanitarian aid workers on COVID-19 in South Sudan.
Christian Bader, EU ambassador to South Sudan, said the PPEs will support international and national humanitarian organizations to continue delivering services amid COVID-19 pandemic which had disrupted their work. “We cannot tolerate that when providing lifesaving services to the people of South Sudan, too many humanitarian workers have no alternative but to risk their own lives, one of these risk is COVID-19 to which health providers are particularly exposed,” Bader told journalists in Juba on Wednesday.He said that collaboration and spirit of togetherness is key in fighting the pandemic. “Today we are here to remind ourselves that we are stronger together especially in fighting this COVID-19 pandemic. The EU Trust Fund, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and WFP are supporting this delivery of protective equipment in this spirit,” he said. “We are stronger in fighting the virus if all together with South Sudanese authorities and citizens we support the security and efforts of frontline workers,” added Bader. He also called for South Sudan authorities to do more to protect aid workers from violence.
At least nine aid workers have been killed during violent attacks on them this year in South Sudan bringing the overall number of aid workers killed to 124 aid since the conflict broke out in late 2013.Bader revealed that the PPEs are essential for the continuity of other non-COVID-19 health services in the country. He noted that the already weak health care system could easily be overburdened in case of an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients among humanitarian workers. “In South Sudan, before even the pandemic we knew that at least 6.5 million people half of the population would face acute food insecurity in 2020 and that all the population is still extremely vulnerable to risks and shocks,” said Bader.
COVID-19 and floods are overstretching the capacities of humanitarian workers in an already complex situation, he added. Henry Gray, WHO COVID-19 Incident Manager called for increased collaboration between agencies and governments to combat the pandemic. “The COVID-19 road ahead may be long and it’s likely to have a few bumps on the way however, this type of collaboration is what we need not only here in South Sudan but globally, if we are to beat this outbreak and if we are to look after the population that mostly need our support,” he said. He disclosed they are already putting in place measures to be well prepared in case of an outbreak of a second wave in South Sudan.”We are in a relatively fortunate position in the country today, we have case management capacity for those patients who are critically ill and we still have plenty of capacity within the country,” said Gray.
South Sudan has set up case management facilities in all states with plenty of beds. “At the moment we have one patient hospitalized in the country; we have almost hundreds of beds here in Juba and dozens of beds in the states. I think we are relatively in a comfortable position in terms of managing current cases,” said Gray. Mathew Hollingworth, World Food Programme country director said the donation is an important contribution to all health organizations working in South Sudan through a joint pipeline that provides key PPE to health workers across the country. “COVID-19 is not the only challenge that South Sudanese people face but if we are not careful it can be a challenge that hampers our ability to provide all kinds of humanitarian services, medical services, and assistance to people of the country,” he said. He also disclosed that the PPE will help health workers working in clinics, hospitals and primary health care units to continue to do their jobs whether directly related to COVID-19 or in ensuring that polio, measles vaccination campaigns and nutrition programs can continue in the country.