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South Sudan: Hunger forces COVID-19 patients to violate quarantine

In the absence of quarantine facilities, pandemic patients have been advised to stay inside their homes

Benjamin Takpiny   | 08.05.2020
South Sudan: Hunger forces COVID-19 patients to violate quarantine file photo

JUBA, South Sudan 

Authorities in South Sudan feel constrained to keep the coronavirus or COVID-19 infected patients locked inside their homes. Most of them have been seen roaming in the streets in search of food.

Although the country, which has just come out of a long civil war has so far reported only 74 cases with no death, the pandemic is increasing its tentacles. So far only two people have recovered in the country.

Experts also attribute a lower number of cases to almost non-existent testing facilities.

In the absence of quarantine facilities, the government has been keeping patients in isolation in their respective homes.

Acknowledging that infected people have been moving outside, the government has now vowed to take strict measures. But people say that the patients are not following directive in the absence of any arrangement to provide them food.

“They are mobile because they miss certain basic things like food, water, electricity, and this is what forces some of them to leave their houses and go outside,” Dr. Angok Gordon Kuol, the manager for COVID-19 at the Health Ministry.

“This issue has been flagged at the highest level. They have started addressing it,” he said.

Of those quarantined, 28 are from a single-family. Since they are not following norms, their neighborhood has become uneasy.

“The situation is bad because I live next to their house. They are not following the guidelines given to them. They go out, which is very risky to those living around them,” a neighbor who identified himself only as Deng told Anadolu Agency.

“They are still moving freely and interacting with the public in the residential area,” Deng added.

Akech, another neighbor said he is scared. “We lack facilities. I have noticed that more than four people stay in one room in the homes. So, if one contracts an infection, everybody in the room will be affected,” he said.


Poor health infrastructure

According to the directives by the World Health Organization on COVID-19, patients have to be kept in isolation, until they recover. The precautions are meant to stem the spread of the virus, which has so far infected 3.76 million people and killed 263,983 people across the world.

Just out of the decades' long civil war, South Sudan has one of the world’s poorest health systems. Currently, there is only one designated quarantine facility with only two dozen beds.

“As I speak to you, we have only 40 beds now and within a week, the number of beds may increase to 100,” said Dr. Kuol.

“So, seeing the behavior of the virus, it is high time to use both- the healthcare facilities and home care to avoid infection,” he said.

According to the Health Ministry, the limited capacity has made them ask patients to limit themselves in their homes.

“Our capacity to quarantine patients is limited. We have asked patients to stay at home, where health officers are monitoring them every day,” said Dr. Thuou Loi, the spokesperson of the ministry.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, he said the government is working overtime to increase the capacity of quarantine centers.

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