The African continent with few exceptions has been spared the ravages of COVID-19. As of May 15, 2021, there are 10,650 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Sudan, 115 deaths and a positivity rate of 1.4 percent. More than 150,000 people have been tested; rural areas are unaffected at this point in time, and most cases are in urban areas (Juba, Wau) and UN Protection of Civilians camps. Little testing is available, and education of the population is ongoing. Access to clinics and hospitals is limited.
The country has received 132,000 doses of AstraZeneca from COVAX (World Health Organization) for 12 million people and hopes to vaccinate 40 percent of the population by the end of the year. Government officials and religious leaders have been vaccinated; additional shots are reserved for health care workers and those over age 65. Will this be enough to avoid a situation like the current crisis in India?
Given that hospitals are unprepared to assist those with serious infection, Friends in Solidarity is facilitating the provision of nine oxygen concentrators with funding from Bon Secours Mercy Health System, Holy Cross Sisters, De LaSalle International and Grand Rapids Dominicans. These are being positioned in Wau, Yambio and Juba in the Comboni managed hospital in Mapourdit, Rumbek Diocese. When the pandemic is over, the oxygen concentrators will be used for training purposes and shared with teaching hospitals.
Friends in Solidarity has signed onto an initiative of the Catholic Cares Coalition which is promoting vaccine equity as well as trying to combat misinformation with regard to vaccines. Forty-seven organizations are supporting this campaign. Our major concern is with equity in the distribution of vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. High-income countries such as the United States have stockpiled more vaccines than they can ever use. It is time that surplus vaccines are shared with those less able to access and/or afford vaccines. America Magazine has featured the coalition in a recent article (“The free market alone will not vaccinate the world,” Mary Beth Powers, May 6, 2021). We all need to motivate our governments to look beyond national boundaries — this is a global pandemic which requires a global response.
Sister Joan Mumaw, IHM