Keeping essential services close, but at least one meter apart

UNICEF is committed to the continuation of life-saving services in the context of COVID-19, in a safe way

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A nutrition worker is examining a girl
20 April 2020


Most essential health and nutrition services require a human touch. This girl is being examined at Gurei nutrition centre in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The nutrition worker is checking if the girl has any edema, one of the classical symptoms of malnutrition in children.


Benches in a nutrition centre separated with thread


There is a new boss in the country called COVID-19, requiring people to stay apart to prevent the spread of the virus. At Gurei Primary Health Care Centre in Juba, UNICEF and World Vision have put in place physical measures to keep people apart.


A child with a measuring tape on the upper arm
Alice is measuring Sarah's mid-upper-arm circumference


Even though we are faced with the threat of the Coronavirus, we need to keep essential services going, ensuring children are not dying from conditions we know how to treat. 1.3 million children under five years of age in South Sudan will suffer from acute malnutrition this year. That is more than seven times the number of people who have died from COVID as of 20 April 2020. 

Acute malnutrition is deadly if left untreated, as every bacteria and virus has an open gate to child's immune system. The good news is that we are really good at treating this. More than 90 per cent of all children being treated for severe acute malnutrition in the UNICEF supported outpatient treatment centres in South Sudan makes it. They recover and get a second chance in life, but only if correct treatment is administered timely. This is why UNICEF is committed to continue life-saving services- but in a safe way.




We have to admit we are using our fair share of hand sanitizer to keep the environment clean, and we have also installed handwashing stations, ensuring everyone is washing their hands before entering the premises. 


A mother measuring a child's upper arm
Susan is measuring Flora's mid-upper-arm circumference


We try to look ahead and prepare for new restrictions to be announced as preventive measures against COVID-19.  Therefore, all the mothers are taught how to assess the children's progress at home with the mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC) tape that they get to take home.


Sachets of ready-to-use therapeutic food


The beauty of the outpatient therapeutic programme is that the actual treatment is happening at home. In that sense, the nutrition programme is very COVID-friendly. Every mother get enough ready-to-use therapeutic food for one week at the time. This is our number one medicine against severe acute malnutrition.


A mother with her child on her lap
Julia with Farida on her lap at Gurei Primary Health Care Centre


We also provide soap to contribute to a clean and hygienic environment at home where the child is treated.


Two children looking at the camera


UNICEF, for every child- our slogan, has never been more important. We are proud of all our partners that help us make this happening and our donors that supports us.

UNICEF's nutrition programmes are generously supported by USAID