South Sudan: UN highlights COVID-19 and violence threat to peace process
The United Nations has raised concerns over the threat of the coronavirus outbreak and an increase in violence across South Sudan as a “twin-threat” to the country’s struggling peace process.
In a statement released earlier this week, the UN highlighted weaknesses in South Sudan’s healthcare system and a slow response to the COVID-19 outbreak that could result in a “devastating” increase in deaths. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNIMSS) also points to an increase in violence that threatens the country’s fragile ceasefire.
UN highlights COVID-19 threat in South Sudan
While the coronavirus poses a direct threat to life in South Sudan, the UN is more concerned about the impact it is having on the country’s already-fragile healthcare system. If authorities become overwhelmed in dealing with an outbreak, the disruption to essential healthcare, such as maternal care, treatment for curable diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia, and dealing with emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes would be catastrophic.
“COVID is going to hit hard, but not necessarily in the way that we think”, said David Shearer, head of UNIMSS, as he addressed the UN Security Council via video-teleconference on Tuesday.
“Yes, people will die from the virus, like everywhere else in the world. But the real threat to the people of South Sudan lies in the collapse of the already fragile health system,” he said.
“This could result in many many more lives being lost – a tragedy that can be prevented.”
The UN official also raised concerns about recent violence in parts of South Sudan that could threaten the country’s fragile peace process. he said fighters had been seen wearing uniforms, suggesting that organised armed forces may be joining local conflicts.
Shearer urged South Sudan’s leaders to respond to any outbreaks in violence and enforce the peace deal holding the conflict-ridden country together.
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