UNMISS installs handwashing facilities in Rumbek town to prevent spread of COVID-19

unmiss south sudan rumbek covid-19 preventative measures water tanks hand washing facilities isolation centres social distancing

Six water tanks to facilitate frequent hand washing. That's what UNMISS is installing at strategic places in Rumbek.

8 May 2020

UNMISS installs handwashing facilities in Rumbek town to prevent spread of COVID-19

Tonny Muwangala

As the entire world is doing battle with the global COVID-19 pandemic the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, is playing its part in Rumbek by setting up hand washing facilities in usually crowded public places in town.

The installation of these sworn enemies of the Coronavirus, six 20,000-litre water tanks, comes at the request of the Lakes State COVID-19 task force, led by the state ministry of health and the World Health Organization. Regular washing of the tips of upper body extremities, paired with social distancing and a sneeze-where-your-elbow-is policy, has been globally recognized as the best way of preventing the pandemic from spreading.

The peacekeeping mission is placing the water tanks in the most strategic venues imaginable, including the police station, the army barracks and the Rumbek central market. On average, the police station receives more than 400 visitors per day, including prisoners, their relatives and law enforcement officers.

The local police officers are duly impressed and appreciative by the new facilities.

“We have been worried about all the people who come here, but from now on everybody will have to wash their hands before entering the police station,” says Brigadier General Majak Alpayo, officer in charge and an avid hand washer himself.

Edward Moini, head of the UNMISS COVID task force in Rumbek, explains that the water tanks will be put in place in phases and ensures the general public in the Lakes area that this is not the only COVID-19 preventative ace up the peacekeeping mission’s imaginary sleeve.

“We are also working on renovating a place that will serve as an isolation centre here in Rumbek, and another such facility to be set up in Yirol West,” says Mr. Moini, adding that UN peacekeepers are also transporting safe water to Cueibet.

The COVID-19 task force task is facing a multitude of challenges, according to Dr. Abigaba James, a representative of private clinics.

“We don’t have the equipment necessary to analyze tests. If we suspect that someone is infected, we must send the samples to Juba. This makes it difficult to take timely action. We don’t have an adequate isolation centre, but at least we are getting one now,” says the doctor, who has also noted that cultural factors make it complicated to heed advice on avoiding physical greetings and maintain a suitable distance to others.

To date, there is no confirmed case of the Coronavirus in Lakes State. In South Sudan as a whole, 90 persons have been found to be infected.