Protecting South Sudanese Refugees from COVID-19

UNICEF and partners provide shelter, safety and protection from COVID-19 in Sudan's refugee camps

Iman Mustafa and Khamisa Mohamed
villagers reading covid messages in sudan
UNICEF Sudan
21 June 2020

According to the Sudan Humanitarian Overview, Sudan hosts over 800,000 South Sudanese refugees, of which more than 425,000 are children. Most of these refugees reside in crowded camp settlements with limited access to their basic needs including water and sanitation items, making them even more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Sudan hosts many South Sudanese people who fled their country due to conflict and food insecurity to seek refuge across the border. They reside in refugee settlements throughout Sudan and are at high risk of contracting coronavirus because of overcrowded and often unhygienic conditions. 

In East Darfur State, UNICEF and implementing partners are working around the clock to deliver critical lifesaving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. Improving WASH services is not only critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but other diarrhoeal diseases that put many children’s lives at risk. 

 

Young girl at the community outreach session receiving information about COVID-19.
UNICEF Sudan
Young girl at the community outreach session receiving information about COVID-19.

Hygiene promotors are reaching out to communities to prevent the spread of the virus, through risk communication and social mobilization, which includes awareness materials in local languages. These communication materials are key to reaching out to the vulnerable communities who have limited access to information.  They are designed to inform, educate and communicate messages around important hygiene behavior practices to improve the overall health conditions of South Sudanese Refugees and their host community. 

In addition to access to information and key messages, the availability of clean water, soap and hand-washing facilities are the most effective disease prevention methods. UNICEF provided and distributed hygiene kits, soap, and emergency water jerry cans to all households, especially congested refugee settlements. With these supplies, the community is more encouraged to regularly wash their hands, which also helps establish a long-term and positive social norm. 

Women practicing physical distancing at water pump with their new jerry cans, circles on the ground guide the women to where to stand.
UNICEF Sudan
Women practicing physical distancing at water pump with their new jerry cans, circles on the ground guide the women to where to stand.

COVID-19 affects everyone, but the elderly and those with underlying diseases are most at risk of severe illness. At the refugee settlement, these high-risk groups are often ignored, right now they need more support than ever due to their vulnerability. 

Ayak Akok Yang, 70 years-old, has been living in the refugee settlement since 2016, when she and her family fled war in South Sudan. While adhering to physical distance, Ayak is among the vulnerable who received sanitation and hygiene supplies. 

“I will use the soap to wash my hands and clothes, good hygiene is important to stop spreading coronavirus. Uncleanliness brings diseases, which is a real risk in a settlement like this one, with many people living here,” says Ayak.

Without the relief items being regularly distributed in the refugee settlement, Ayak said she wouldn’t be able to afford the basic things needed to maintain her daily life.

“I have no money here. This relief has come at the right time and I am happy. Back home in South Sudan, I had a small business selling dried fish, but here, away from the river, that is impossible.‘’

 

Ayak, 70 years receives her new jerry cans and soap at the community outreach session.
UNICEF Sudan
Ayak, 70 years receives her new jerry cans and soap at the community outreach session.

I will use the soap to wash my hands and clothes, good hygiene is important to stop spreading coronavirus. Uncleanliness brings diseases, which is a real risk in a settlement like this one, with many people living here.

Ayak Akok Yang

Thanks to the numerous WASH lifesaving items provided by UNICEF, Ayak and many others are making great use of the items, in addition to good hygienic practices. While physical distancing, women go from the collection queue to the water source with their new jerry cans, that are quickly filled with clean water to take back to their households and cook. 

With thanks to the Governments of Canada, Germany, Sweden, United States, and donors contributing to Sudan’s Humanitarian Fund (SHF) and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for supporting UNICEF Sudan’s COVID-19 response