AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - A missionary: "The pandemic must not stop the peace process"

Thursday, 14 May 2020 peace   coronavirus   orders   missionary institutes  

Juba (Agenzia FIdes) - South Sudan responded immediately and seriously to the threat of the coronavirus, by adopting containment measures, but the pandemic must not slow down the peace process: this is what Sister Elena Balatti, Comboni missionary in Juba hopes for. The measures taken by the executive against Covid-19 have had postive effects so far. The sick are just over 200 out of twelve million inhabitants. Few compared to many African countries, nothing compared to the infections in America, Asia, and Europe. "The government of Juba - Sister Elena Balatti explains to Fides - proved to be ready. As soon as the first cases in neighboring States were registered, international flights were immediately canceled. The regional ones have been partially canceled and those that have not yet been suppressed must receive special government authorization. Border traffic has been limited. It seems that the measures taken are working, we hope that they will protect South Sudan from the epidemic".
The Country, born in 2011 from the separation from Sudan and upset by six years of civil war, has very fragile medical structures. "Unfortunately - continues Sister Elena -, the health system of South Sudan is very poor. There is only one laboratory in the nation capable of performing swabs, very few intensive care units and four respiratory ventilators. International organizations are taking steps to create intensive care places in some strategic centers for the Country. What is certain is that if the epidemic were to expand, the institutions would be in great difficulty. And it is precisely for this reason that the authorities reacted promptly".
The government has banned all forms of aggregation and has limited commercial activities. In the main centers only the basic necessity shops are open. Reduced hours have been imposed in offices. "Political meetings and, alas, religious ceremonies have been prohibited - continues Sister Elena -. Among Christians, the impossibility of celebrating the Easter triduum in church aroused great concern. However, religious leaders did a great job by explaining to the faithful the reasons why it iso f fundamental importance to stay at home and not to spread the virus".
On February 23, a delicate peace process began with the entry into the executive of rebel leader Riek Machar. The formation of a national unity government was the first step towards new elections and greater political stability. "The Covid-19 epidemic - concluded Sister Elena - did not stop this process, but slowed it down. The appointment of local government officials has been postponed. Certainly political leaders are concerned about possible contagion. At the base, however, there is also a lack of agreement on the distribution of the proceeds of natural resources (oil, gold, water, etc.), of which South Sudan is very rich. The hope of all is that, once the emergency is over, the building of a peace that guarantees prosperity for a nation tormented by too much violence of the past will start again". (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 14/5/2020)