South Sudan may have secured more than two million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, but getting shots into arms is another matter. That’s according to David Shearer, who leaves his post as the head of the United Nation’s mission in the country in April.
“In a place like South Sudan, where logistics are so difficult particularly the rainy season that will be coming in a couple of months. Roads do not exist in the rainy season. You have to fly things everywhere or take by barge or by river,” says Shearer.
The world’s newest nation has recorded over 10 000 infection and just 108 deaths, but inadequate testing prevents a clear picture of the pandemic.
A total of 2.3 million vaccines, provided through the COVAX global sharing scheme, are expected to arrive in the coming months.
South Sudan receives COVID-19 vaccine from COVAX facility:
That timing coincides with the rains, which will flood many of the country’s just 250 miles of paved roads, and that’s not the only challenge. Nearly a decade after gaining independence and South Sudan is grappling with the triple threat of conflict, climate change and COVID-19.
Shearer, who has led the UN Mission in South Sudan since 2016, says some of the country’s ethnic conflicts could be prevented.
“What we are in desperate need of is good government. Leaders who are looking at serving their people above all, rather than necessarily serving themselves,” he says.
Shearer added that nearly all the population depends on international food aid, and that the UN and aid groups are providing most basic services, such as health and education.