Soap as the only COVID-19 weapon

UNICEF is distributing soap and buckets in congested areas where physical distancing is impossible

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A woman washing hands
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
18 April 2020

 

There are more space between supermarket aisles than between some of the tents in the Protection of Civilian site in Juba. That makes the PoCs a perfect place for the spread of diseases such as COVID-19.

South Sudan has all the space in the world being the size of France but with a population just under 12 million people. When the conflict broke out, people sought refuge on UN land and the rapid escalation called for people to place their tents as close as possible to accommodate as many as possible.

The set-up was good for dodging bullets, but not for the new threat; the Coronavirus disease.

 

A woman walking amid tents
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng

 

South Sudan is also affected by the global COVID-19 Pandemic and one of the main recommendations is social distancing to prevent potential spread of the virus. In a context where you share a tent with six- twelve family members and you can meet someone on the road without touching them, this becomes extremely challenging.

This makes the second recommendation, frequent handwashing with soap and water, even more important. But what do you do when you don't have access to the only weapon against the disease?

 

Buckets and soap
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng

 

UNICEF has armed the PoC dwellers with soap and buckets they can use to make handwashing stations in their homes, and is doing social mobilization to ensure everyone knows the importance of washing hands, and keep their distance when they can.

 

A woman talking in a megaphone
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng

 

People are called to the distribution sites by volunteers operating the megaphone. 

 

 

A man handing a bucket to a woman
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng

 

Nyayien Banang is one of the residents of PoC 1 and has received the handwashing equipment. 

"I know that there is a diseases that is spreading fast. I know that we need to keep it clean here to prevent it. We need to do handwashing, and we need to keep or jerrycans clean. I clean them every day."

 "We have been given soap and buckets for a handwashing station. We didn't have a handwashing station before, so this is great. We can wash our hands but also our faces when we are entering the home. We are very grateful for that. They have told us that we need to wash our hands, now we can actually do it."

 

 

A woman washing hands
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Nyayien Banang washing her hands outside her home in PoC 1

 

UNICEF and partners have distributed close to 60,000 bars of soap and over 8,500 buckets in the PoCs, other congested areas and to health and nutrition centres in South Sudan, as part of the national plan to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus disease.

 

 

A man carrying a carton
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng

 

Together with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF is co-leading the infection prevention and control (IPC) and the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) efforts related to the national COIVID-19 response in South Sudan.

 

A boy in a box
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng

PS; cardboard boxes also make good toys for the children.

 

UNICEF's COVID-19 response is carried out in partnership with the World Bank