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Living without clean water or healthcare in the COVID-19 era

Mary is 65 and lives in the Protection of Civilian (POC) site in Juba, South Sudan with her son. She told us how the pandemic has affected her, and her worries about being able to stay safe with limited access to clean water and medical treatment. 

The Protection of Civilian (POC) sites in South Sudan were set up to shelter civilians who had been forced from their homes by years of fighting between different ethnic groups in the country. Mary was displaced from her home in 2009 and again in 2013 before she eventually fled to live in a POC site. Then inter-communal conflict within the POC site forced her to relocate again to another site in 2018.

Mary told us that she is afraid of COVID-19 because she heard it can “easily kill elderly persons with weak immune systems” and she lacks vital hygiene items like clean water and soap, hand sanitisers and face masks to protect herself.

On top of this, the living conditions on the site make it hard to maintain social distancing, with the shelters crowded together and as many as 10 family members sharing a shelter. The POC sites had initially been set up as a temporary measure with limited facilities but were quickly flooded with people as the conflict continued and more and more civilians sought protection. 

Those living in the sites rarely leave the camps for their own safety, so the restriction of movement because of the pandemic hasn’t affected Mary. However, her son used to do some informal work to earn a living and support them both, and his income has been much reduced due to the restrictions. And whilst the government and humanitarian organisations are supporting the vulnerable people living in the sites and raising awareness of the virus, there is no health provider on site to provide treatment.

Mary feels she can do nothing but leave her life in God’s hands – “I put all my hopes in Jesus Christ”.

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Last updated: Mar 01 2022

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