The Upper Nile State task force on COVID-19, supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and other partners, has been raising awareness about how to prevent the disease. Hundreds of face masks have also been distributed.
“We have learned a lot on how to avoid becoming infected by the Coronavirus. Now I will use this knowledge to make others in my community aware,” says James Akouch Adwok, a community leader in the UN protection of civilians site in Malakal, mentioning the importance of hand washing, physical distancing and wearing a face mask in crowded areas that cannot be avoided.
The state task force and the World Health Organization, WHO, consider leaders within the protection site to be vital partners when it comes to reaching out to internally displaced people. The peacekeeping mission has also played its part, not least by handing out leaflets and other informational material on how to prevent COVID-19.
“We have trained community leaders both in the protection site and at Malakal market. We have also distributed around 600 face masks in each place. We are targeting the most vulnerable persons, like tea sellers, restaurant staff and business owners who interact with customers every day,” says Dr. Joshua Jeremiah, secretary of the Upper Nile State task force.
We have learned a lot on how to avoid becoming infected by the Coronavirus
Restaurant owner Sabreen Joseph is grateful for the assistance and is keen to relay good prevention advice to her guests.
“I am glad I received these face masks as they will protect both me and my waiters. I will also make sure that my regular customers maintain adequate distance between themselves by having suitable sitting arrangements,” she says.
Civil Affairs Officer Charles Boum, who serves with the peacekeeping mission, believes that the efforts made to reach out to the public are timely.
“This is the right time for COVID-19 information. Share it with others, not least the importance not to stigmatize people who become infected. Make sure to seek medical advice if you have symptoms,” he urges workshop participants.
Available statistics support Charles Boum’s view that this is a critical period in Malakal and the rest of Upper Nile. In July, the number of confirmed cases in the state has increased from 10 to 35, with one person having died from complications.
Twenty of the infections have been recorded inside the protection of civilians site, and another six in Malakal town, according to Dr. Emmanuel Timothy, who works for the World Health Organization and reiterates that guidelines on prevention must be strictly adhered to.
Dr. Timothy says that so far, more than 200 health workers, including laboratory technicians, have been trained on how to manage infected persons and that screening is ongoing at points of entry to Malakal and Kodok. The border towns of Renk, Maban and Maiwut are also being closely monitored.