Wunthou border in Renk, South Sudan © Aleu Kuek / Care International
Juba –The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is working in close partnership with the government of South Sudan and other UN agencies to ramp up surveillance at the country’s borders as part of efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
South Sudan has recorded 994 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 28 May.
A team jointly led by the Government of South Sudan and IOM recently concluded a mission to conduct a joint needs assessment on the establishment of a Point of Entry (PoE) in Wunthou, Renk County, located far north in the Upper Nile State on the country’s border with Sudan.
The team assessed the preparedness and capacity to carry out border management finding that protracted disputes over demarcation between Sudan and South Sudan have meant little cross-border cooperation between the two countries, including no shared intelligence, leaving movement across the borders uncoordinated.
Records of population movement which remains largely manual, availability of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities for response to COVID-19 were also assessed.
The PoE at Renk is one of the sixteen PoE’s identified by the government as top priority areas due to the density of people living along the border areas and the high flows of mixed migration population traveling into and out of the country. These include South Sudanese refugees returning following the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement and the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity.
With approximately 40 to 50 trucks moving across the border each qweek, Renk has proven to be an important trading hub and is vital to the humanitarian aid lifeline connecting South Sudan and Sudan.
“Renk is an important and busy trade and humanitarian corridor,” said IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission, Jean-Philippe Chauzy.
“As a first step and before establishing a fully-fledged point of entry, it is imperative that infection prevention and control measures such as the installation of hand washing stations are in place as well as proper management of suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19,” added Chauzy.
In March, South Sudan suspended all flights and closed all its land borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Cargo and humanitarian aid, food trucks and fuel tankers are exempted from the ban.
The South Sudan COVID-19 National Country Response Plan has mandated IOM and the Ministry of Health as the co-leads of the PoE Engagement pillar.
“We are very pleased that this joint assessment with the International Organization for Migration and other partners took place,” said the Ministry of Health’s Director of Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health, Dr Zacharia Modi. “It is an important step to ensure that while we keep borders open for essentials and humanitarian relief, we do so while taking precautions that protect the public from COVID-19 transmission.”
Dr Modi noted the need to strengthen the capacities of local authorities, frontline officers and local partners in responding to this pandemic, including improving the current infrastructure that is not yet adequate to respond to the health crisis.
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