The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is operating in close cooperation with the government of South Sudan along with other UN agencies to ramp up monitoring at the country’s borders as part of attempts to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
South Sudan has documented already around a thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 1 June.
A team collectively led by the Government of South Sudan and IOM newly settled a mission to lead a joint needs assessment on the establishment of a Point of Entry (PoE) in Wunthou, Renk County, settled far north in the Upper Nile State on South Sudan’s border with Sudan.
The team evaluated the readiness and ability to carry out border management finding that protracted disputes over demarcation between Sudan and South Sudan have meant little cross-border cooperation among the two countries, including no shared intelligence, leaving movement across the borders uncoordinated.
Experiences of population movement which remains largely manual, availability of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities for the response to COVID-19 were also assessed.
The PoE at Renk is one of the sixteen PoE’s identified by the government as top priority areas due to the density of people living along with the border areas and the high flows of mixed migration population traveling into and out of the country. These include South Sudanese refugees returning following the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement and the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity.
With approximately 40 to 50 trucks moving across the border each week, Renk has demonstrated to be an essential business hub and is vital to the humanitarian aid lifeline joining South Sudan and Sudan.
“Renk is an important and busy trade and humanitarian corridor,” stated IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission, Jean-Philippe Chauzy.
“As a first step and before establishing a fully-fledged point of entry, it is imperative that infection prevention and control measures such as the installation of handwashing stations are in place as well as proper management of suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19,” added Chauzy.
In March, South Sudan halted all flights and closed all its homeland borders to stop the expanse of COVID-19. Cargo and humanitarian aid, food trucks and fuel tankers are exempted from the ban.
The South Sudan COVID-19 National Country Response Plan has mandated IOM and the Ministry of Health as the co-leads of the PoE Engagement pillar.