The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the already complex humanitarian situation in South Sudan.
Many people live a hand to mouth existence relying on unstable day jobs, humanitarian assistance, and support from relatives and well-wishers. Years of chronic conflict, failing economy, wide-spread intercommunal violence, cattle raiding, and the aftermath of the nationwide floods in 2019 mean that the country has little resilience to further shocks. When COVID-19 pandemic reached South Sudan, the country was ill-equipped to handle the crisis due to systemically weak healthcare infrastructure and nearly non-existent COVID-19 testing and treating equipment. Both the primary and secondary impacts of COVID-19 have therefore made a challenging context worse for many older people. As of 12th July, South Sudan reported 2,148 active COVID-19 cases, 1,134 recoveries, and 41 deaths.
The purpose of this rapid needs assessment (RNA) was to assess and analyse the multi-sector impacts of COVID-19 on older people, including those displaced. The assessment was conducted in June and July 2020 by Humanitarian and Development Consortium (HDC) with technical support from HelpAge International. Its intended outcome is to enable HDC and HelpAge to adapt its programming and provide advocacy messages to humanitarian partners and the government.
The locations selected to interview older people in South Sudan were the Protection of Civilian sites (POCs) and urban settlement both situated in the capital Juba. The POC sites were set up by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to provide refuge for people affected by the civil war in South Sudan. These sites were selected to provide a comparative analysis of the two locations where HDC is active in. The POCs are comprised of internally displaced people (IDPs) and typically receive greater humanitarian support in comparison with the urban areas in Juba where host community members reside.
- 54% of older people in urban Juba and 29% of those the POCs have difficulty in accessing health services. This is especially concerning given that 80% of older people have at least one health condition and 87% have a disability.
- In urban Juba 31% of older people have reduced the quantity of food consumed and 43% the quality of food consumed. While in the POCs 16% of older people have reduced the quantity and 27% the quality of food consumed.
- Financial and emotional abuse, neglect, and isolation were the highest safety concerns faced by older men and women since the start of COVID-19.
- 48% of the older people surveyed cannot leave their homes to access WASH facilities due to the COVID-19 lockdown. 37% stated that they are too scared of contracting the virus to leave their homes. 41% of the older people say there are not enough facilities for WASH. Older people in Urban Juba have greater WASH access challenges compared with those in POCs.
- 57% of older people surveyed feel anxious or worried all the time or most of the time in urban Juba compared to those in the POCs (35%). While 59% feel depressed all the time or most of the time in urban Juba compared to POCs (37%).
Source: HelpAge International