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How IDPs camps in South Sudan manage to survive the worst of COVID-19

Oct 13, 2020(Nyamilepedia)Protecting thousands of internally displaced persons living in the IDPs settlement camps from COVID-19 presented unparalleled challenges.

People gather at a makeshift IDP camp at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba (Photo credit: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)
People gather at a makeshift IDP camp at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba (Photo credit: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

These camps are usually overcrowded with 168,000 of the 1.7 million internally displaced persons living in one of 116 camps within the country. 

According to UNMISS officials who work here, this means that adhering to some of the COVID-19 guidelines like social distancing was not just possible. Availability of some of the basic necessities like water, sanitation and hygiene was limited.

“The COVID-19 outbreak poses an enormous threat to vulnerable populations in camps and settlements, where overcrowded living conditions and inadequate access to social services challenge effective coronavirus prevention and control,” says Dr Olushayo Olu, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative for South Sudan.

Camp residents believed that staying in the camp was the safest option away from civil conflict, war, famine  and floods.

“I believed if things are going to get worse, then I would rather be here under [the United Nations Mission in South Sudan protection], where I know they will have to do something rather than me going away and most likely face difficulties I’m not equipped to handle,” explains a leader of the 1921 residents of Bor Protection of Civilian Site in Jonglei State.

The United Nations, and local and international non-governmental organizations prioritized the prevention of the COVID-19 from reaching the communities or camps.

WHO provided guidelines, tools and kits to partners to facilitate enhanced case and mortality surveillance which allowed for rapid identification, testing and isolation of cases as well as contact listing and quarantine to prevent the risk of widespread outbreaks.


To prevent the infections, the government started a nationwide campaign including camps to raise awareness of the corona virus and how people should take care of themselves.

WHO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners, supported the training of nearly 400 health care workers in the camps and settlements on caring for COVID-19 patients and how to prevent and control the spread of the virus.

Community leaders in some camps took ownership of certain containment measures, such as gate control and deciding who, when and how people enter the camp. 

WHO and other partners provided supplies for temperature screening of residents at the camp entry locations.

The Government initiated contact tracing soon after the first cases was detected on 5 April.

So far South Sudan’s vulnerable displaced populations have not experienced a huge number of COVID-19 cases. 

The prevention and control measures taken appear to have helped. 

As of 30 September, only 59 cases among displaced persons had been confirmed from the camps and settlements and as of 12 October, the country had recorded 2798 cases of COVID-19 and 55 deaths.

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