Individuals and institutions in Bor join UNMISS mobile COVID-19 awareness campaign

unmiss south sudan protection of civilians humanitarian Bor peacekeepers peacekeeping WHO COVID-19 Coronavirus

An UNMISS promo truck is going around residential areas and the central business district in Bor broadcasting WHO-approved safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 via loudsspeakers.

25 May 2020

Individuals and institutions in Bor join UNMISS mobile COVID-19 awareness campaign

Gideon Sackitey

After hearing World Health Organization (WHO)-approved preventative measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 being constantly broadcast across Bor town from a promo truck commissioned by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Yonas Meles, a young hotel manager, concluded that it was prudent to join the campaign.

“The more I listened to the messages conveyed through the loudspeaker mounted on the UNMISS promo truck, the more I realized that my customers and patrons at the Freedom Hotel in Bor, which I manage, need to be aware of the risks posed by the virus as well as how to protect themselves from it,” revealed Yonas. Freedom Hotel now has an educational banner on the coronavirus hanging prominently on its façade, a constant reminder to patrons and passers by along the busy road where it is located that the threat posed by COVID-19 are to be taken seriously.

Yonas acknowledges that he did worry about reducing footfalls at the hotel on account of the pandemic, though, safety concerns currently outweigh any financial considerations he might have. “We’re taking the preventative measures very seriously,” said Yonas, “especially with regard to physical or social distancing,” though he admits it is difficult to explain to regular guests at the hotel why they need to stay at least two meters apart, as advised by the WHO.

Yonas is one example from an increasing list of citizens, civil society groups and community-based organizations who have teamed up with the UNMISS Field Office in Jonglei to raise awareness about COVID-19. These organisations include the People’s Care Agency, the self-funded group of citizens called the Coronavirus Response Team, Child Bride Solidarity and the State Level COVID-19 Task Force. These local partners are conducting door-to-door sensitization and distributing information leaflets and handwashing products to help keep their communities safe and healthy.

The UNMISS mobile awareness campaign, run in partnership with the WHO, consists of a promo truck driving through densely populated residential areas as well as the central business district in Bor, where the initial reaction to the pandemic was one of disbelief. However, with the number of confirmed cases rising across the country, people here are rallying to combat it, including at the UNMISS Protection of Civilians site.

“We are grateful to UNMISS for creating massive awareness among the displaced community in Bor about COVID-19 as well as teaching us about essential preventative measures,” said Makuach Mun Kem, Chairperson of the Bor PoC site. “People should stop moving across the country. This is why we have stopped all visits into the PoC site and are encouraging everyone to keep washing their hands and to practice social distancing,” he added.

The mission’s mobile education and awareness drive is scheduled to hit other parts of Jonglei and the greater Pibor administrative area in coming weeks. “This virus does not differentiate between people, we are all in this together and equally at risk. UNMISS is supporting outreach campaigns as far and wide across South Sudan as possible; I am pleased with the commitment demonstrated by individuals and organisations here in Bor. Our objective, as a mission, is to protect ourselves and the people of South Sudan by mitigating the spread of COVID-19,” said Deborah Schein, UNMISS Head of Field Office in the region.