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US Gives South Sudan Government $8M to Fight COVID-19

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VOA 30 MAR 2020

UBA, KHARTOUM – The U.S. government has donated $8 million to South Sudan to help prevent the coronavirus pandemic from reaching the central African country.

As of Monday, there were no confirmed cases there.

U.S. Embassy spokesperson Jonathan Cebra said the United States is leading the world’s humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including in South Sudan.

“The State Department and USAID are providing an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need, on top of the funding we already provided to multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF,” Cebra told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus on Monday.

The U.S. Embassy reduced its staff by 50% in Juba to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We retain sufficient staff to perform our core task — bilateral engagement, development and humanitarian assistance, and support for U.S. citizens in South Sudan,” Cebra said.

Americans and other foreign nationals were given the chance Saturday to leave South Sudan after the U.S. Embassy asked the government’s COVID-19 task force to make an exception to its ban on all incoming and outgoing flights, so a jet could land in the South Sudanese capital to evacuate foreign nationals.

“The flight on Saturday was commercially operated by Ethiopian Airlines, and the majority of passengers were not American citizens,” Cebra said.

Cases in Sudan

On Sunday, neighboring Sudan announced its second death from COVID-19, a little more than two weeks after a Sudanese man died from the disease shortly after returning home from the United Arab Emirates.

Sudanese authorities lengthened the country’s curfew by two hours from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to encourage social distancing.

Health Minister Akram Ali Altom confirmed six new COVID-19 cases Sunday in Sudan.

“All six cases are coming from abroad. Five of them are coming from the United Arab Emirates, and one case coming from France. Five of the cases are Sudanese nationals, and one foreigner,” Altom added.  

Within hours of Altom’s announcement, one of the six COVID-19 patients died. Sudanese businessman Rabee Dahab had traveled to the United Arab Emirates and arrived home March 13. Dahab was screened at the airport but did not have a fever. He stayed with family members upon his return to Khartoum.

Eighty-six individuals in Sudan suspected of being infected with the coronavirus, or who were in contact with others who were infected, including Dahab’s family members, are in mandatory quarantine, Altom said.

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