One of the biggest challenges faced by health authorities around the world is finding a safe space to isolate, monitor and treat patients suffering from COVID-19.
In South Sudan, this is even more difficult because of the fragile health system and dire state of medical facilities which have been devastated by years of civil war.
In Rumbek, it has been a huge concern for the community. Patients suffering from preventable or treatable illnesses, like malaria, have been being exposed to COVID-19 because they had no option but to share the same limited hospital space as those affected by the virus.
To resolve this problem, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan funded the renovation of a special isolation center at Rumbek hospital that will be dedicated to caring for patients confirmed to have COVID-19. A generator was also installed to ensure that electricity is readily available.
“Pregnant women and people suffering from diseases had stopped coming to the hospital to receive treatment and antenatal care,” said Dr. Enzo Pisani, the head of Doctors of Africa in Lakes State, at the official opening of the isolation facility. “But this new facility means that these patients will no longer avoid coming to the hospital for care because they are afraid to come into contact with COVID-19.”
The peacekeeping mission also donated an ambulance to transport patients and built six hand-washing facilities in the town to help the community stay safe during COVID-19.
To further strengthen the local response to the global pandemic, UNMISS handed over a van to be used to broadcast COVID-19 prevention messages in communities across the region as well as distributing more than 400 solar radio handsets so people can receive information more easily.
The Mission has also previously renovated isolation centers in Yirol and Cueibet.
“We will individually and collectively continue to support the state in every possible way to fight this pandemic,” said the Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Rumbek, Kwame Dwamena-Aboagye. “We have handed over all of these items to local authorities and it is now their responsibility to ensure the donations are used effectively and efficiently to help communities prevent and respond to COVID-19.”
Local authorities appreciated the support from UNMISS which they said would help strengthen their campaign against COVID-19.
“When you look at the situation in other places, you will find that Rumbek is better off because of the efforts of volunteers on the Task Force and the support received from our partners,” said Martin Marciec, the Secretary-General of Rumbek. “No government or organization can single handedly fight this pandemic and win. We must work together in unity if we are to save the lives of our people.”
Health workers at the handover of the isolation center sent a strong warning to community members who are not taking the risks of COVID-19 seriously.
“COVID-19 is real, and it kills. Our people should stop underestimating this global pandemic and start heeding the preventive measures,” said Dr. Makuac Anyuon, the Director-General of the Rumbek Ministry of Health. “Unless people start listening to advice from experts, all our efforts to fight this monster called COVID will be in vain. People must work together with us.”
UNMISS also expressed its concern about the stigmatization of those affected by COVID-19, which may discourage people from coming forward to be tested and to seek medical assistance if they become seriously ill.
“Each of us is a possible victim of this virus. It can get any of us at anytime and anywhere. We should stop stigmatizing those that have been unfortunate and caught the virus,” said Kwame Dwamena-Aboagye. “We should instead be giving them all the support needed. This is the only way we can win this battle.”
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan