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CEPO's Observation Report on COVID-19

Community Empowerment for Progress Organization Organization’s 1st Observation Report on COVID-19

April, 2020.

Abstract:

This report presents public advocacy and lobby for collective engagement in fighting COVD-19 in the Republic of South Sudan. South Sudan has officially confirmed two positive cases of COVID-19 from 5th April 2020 in Juba.

The first confirmation of the positive case by the Government Taskforce on COVID-19 has raised public panic across the country to the level that hate speech and negative stereotypes were observed among the young population of South Sudanese online communities in various social media outlets. Also incidences of some citizens of the immediate neighboring countries of South Sudan taking up hate speech and negative stereotypes towards South Sudan was observed via social media interaction platforms.

This has raised hostile propaganda among the citizens of different countries online and mainly young and educated class. This trend is considered as dangerous and an approach for dividing people for joint efforts on preventing COVID-19. South Sudan Taskforce is extremely doing remarkable efforts with its partners namely WHO, Ministry of Health and others, especially in raising early warnings making the public to receive accurate knowledge on what is COVID-19 and how it can be prevented.

The South Sudan COVID 19 Taskforce getting to embrace high transparency in reporting and dealing with COVID-19 will increase the public trust, confidence for compliance and enforcement with the regular communication issued by the High Level Taskforce on COVID-19.          

Findings and Raised concerns for bettering the collective efforts for preventing COVID-19

  1. State commitment on preventing COVID-19

The Government of South Sudan through its High Level Taskforce on prevention of COVID-19 is doing remarkable actions on prevention of COVID-19. Among the key remarkable actions are the regular communications from the high level taskforce. Those communications were playing instrumental role in raising public awareness on the threat of the COVID-19. The public is attentive to these daily communications, therefore, it is an influential strategy.  The communications have reached to 18th   as per the dated 7th April, 2020. The 17th and 18th communications were the ones where the two positive cases were officially confirmed and declared publically.     

Concern 1: The High level taskforces should keep on calling and encouraging the public to voluntarily turn out for COVID-19 testing.

Concern 2: The high level taskforces should urgently establish and empower state level taskforces with adequate support to conducting regular communication to the public. The states at international boards should be prioritized 

Concern 3:  The high Level taskforce should provide concrete plan for encouraging voluntarism around the prevention of COVID-19

Concern 4:  The high level taskforce should embrace high level transparency in reporting and dealing with the COVID-19 for winning public trust and confidence      

Concern 5: High level Taskforce should offers regular trainings, mentorship and coaching to the states taskforce or establish digital mechanism for knowledge sharing via virtual approach. Development Partners facility can be used for promoting virtual training, mentorship and coaching              

  1. Enforcement of the preventive measures on COVID-19 by the public

The general public across the country were careless in observing preventive measures declared by the South Sudan Ministry of Health, WHO and the high taskforce South Sudan on COVID-19 before the confirmation of the first  positive case in the country.    The attitude of “I DON’T CARE and COVID-19 IS STILL FAR” was the most dangerous behavior observed across the country. In some places these is due to the ignorance about the threat of COVID-19. The most careless category of the society across the country is the working class and young population ranging from 19 years to 45 years old including members of   the law enforcement agencies. Partly public ignorance around the threat of the COVID-19 is contributing for this careless attitude.

 After declaration of the first positive case of COVID-19,  At least the public care about COVID-19 prevention increased.  This was proofed by the immediate action of voluntary COVID 19 test.

Concern 6:  The high taskforce should adapt of  a strategy of using mobile force with public loud speakers for enforcing the preventive measures especially sites where still public gatherings are observed in friendly and high respect of human rights manner

Concern 7: The high level taskforce should encourage offer some mentorship and coaching sessions for individuals or groups that need to voluntary to disseminate information about the prevention of COVID-19.

Concern 8: The high level taskforce should communicate to the traders of vegetables in the markets across the country to observe social distancing during selling of vegetables to clients and in their sitting arrangement as readers in the market 

  1. Profiteering from COVID-19 

For the last two months some actors in the private sector are profiteering from the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country. Some prices of essential commodities have increased abnormally in the market especially food commodities across the country. Incidences of fake items such as hand sanitizers were observed in the markets including an attempt to change expiry dates of food commodities and paramedical items associated with prevention of COVID-19 such as hand sanitizer. Traders who are criminal minded are taking advantage of the struggle to prevent COVID-19 pandemic by profiteering.

Concern 9: The high taskforces should contribute structure for tracking the market behaviors on pricing and respect of expiring date of commodities and avoidance of traders in dealing with fake items in the market

  1. The Nexus between COVID-19 Prevention, Human Rights and Civic Space

It is essential to pay attention on the nexus between COVID-19 prevention and the respect for human rights values. Incidences of attempts to prevent COVID-19 pandemic interference with human rights values were observed. Among the immediate observed interference were unprofessional restrictions such as harassing and intimidating media and journalists in covering the information on COVID-19 pandemic by some individuals who claimed to be members of the law enforcement agencies.  New trend of patients in health facility threatening medical workers is merging up seriously. It was first observed in Wau teaching hospital dated 6th April 2020 Similar was observed in Nimule, Yei Juba, Yambio and Rumbek. Normally, the content of the threat for medical workers is associated with powerful persons working in the state demanding urgent medical services before the country is faced by COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the specifically cases of human rights issues are;         

  1. Increase in hate speech and negative stereotypes against some individual of different nationalities such as UN staff across country. This is observed as trading trend among the young people population on various social media platforms.
  2. Common citizens threatening medical personnel over provision of quick services because they want to execute social distancing principle in the hospital. This is a common practice done by powerful individuals with state authority. 
  3. Less attention was given  on protection of journalists during coverage of press briefing on COVID-19 pandemic by the state authorities
  4. Increase in political segments from politicians over closure of protection of civilians sites (Internal Displaced Persons camps) 

Concern 10: The nexus between COVID-19 pandemic prevention and protection of civic space should take serious by various actors

Concern 11: The high taskforce should prioritize prevention and protection of journalists in the frontline on covering public information on the efforts for containing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Concern 12: The high taskforce in the daily communication to the public on status of dealing with COVID-19 pandemic should emphasis and stress the risk of public engagement on spreading rumors, hate speech and negative stereotypes

Concern 13: The high taskforces should ensure that clear communication is made on the approach of handling Internal Displaced Persons camps across the country. Avoidance of political segments that cause public panic for the IDPs across the country should be avoid and respect of the IDPs rights to voluntary and dignified return should be fully observe   

  1. The CEPO’s Role 

CEPO will be issuing weekly COVID-19 observation oversight reports on covering information associated with the state and community structures efforts in handling the COVID-19 pandemic across the country.  CEPO will be effectively engage in provide within it capacities some assistance on protection of journalists in the frontline on coverage of COVID-19 pandemic. CEPO will be championing campaigns on prevention of COVID-19 pandemic including awarding identified champions of COVID-19 pandemic preventers. Across the country CEPO is using its facilities such as public loud speakers for dissemination of public information on prevention of COVID-19 pandemic. CEPO will be pro-active n advocacy and lobby around the efforts for making the public adhere to the principles for prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country.       

  1. Recommendations
  1. The high level Taskforce should establish a mechanism for receiving suggestions, concerns or contributions.
  2. The high level taskforces should offer mentorship and coaching for volunteers who wants to volunteer in the struggle for handing COVID-19 pandemic in various forms.
  3. The high level taskforces should ensure that all duty bearers and rights holders are engaged in observing human rights values and rule of law during the efforts for containing the COVID-19 pandemic is essential
  4. There is need for the high level taskforce to add its voice for the call made by the United nations Secretary general on conflicting parties to observe ceasefire, especially what is going on across the areas of  Yei, Morobo and Laniya counties including the deadly inter-communal violence across the country
  5. The high level taskforce should take serious action on political segments usually made towards the fate of internal displaced persons camps closure by the politicians    
  1. Conclusion

It is essential for the High Level Taskforces to ensure that individuals or groups volunteering to disseminate public information are awareness of the preventive measures associated with public information dissemination. The issue of the fate of the Internal Displaced Persons camps across the country should be taken serious by the high level taskforce on COVID-19 pandemic.

This issue is causing serious panic among the population of the Internal Displaced Persons camps. CEPO is interest in championing nationwide fundraising for the taskforces but proper procedures for doing that is required from the high taskforce. The pro-activeness of the high level taskforce is commendable and it should be applauded.