US-based Salesian Missions Supporting COVID-19 Prevention Measures in South Sudan

A volunteer serves food to children at Don Bosco Gumbo IDP camp, Juba.

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the world’s youngest country, South Sudan, Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) is facilitating prevention measures at an internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) facility.

The support is being channeled through Juba-based Don Bosco Gumbo, a local camp for IDPs in the landlocked East-Central African nation.

“With the funding from Salesian Missions, Salesian missionaries with Don Bosco Gumbo are putting several measures in place for the prevention of the virus. They have installed hand-washing facilities at all entry points and are installing hand-washing facilities at the camp for those who have been internally displaced,” the Salesians have stated in a report shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, April 15.

South Sudan has at least four confirmed cases of COVID-19. A special task force is working toward contact tracing, testing and isolating more people in the country that put in place a government of national unity February 22.

“But the country is not prepared enough to face a pandemic of this magnitude,” Salesian Fr. Shyjan Job has cautioned and added, “In the whole country, there are only four ventilators available at the moment. If the virus spreads like other countries, it will be a serious concern.”


The camp that is located in the capital city, Juba, houses more than 10,000 people consisting of mainly women and children displaced from their homes following the civil war that broke out in December 2013, resulting in a dire humanitarian crisis.

At the camp, the Salesian missionaries also run a dispensary where they are providing general health check-ups for the IDPs as well as a one-meal-a-day feeding program for more than 3,000 children.

Other services provided at the camp include social development services, nutrition programs, and health clinics for poor youth and their families. 

“For some, the education offered at Salesian schools is the only opportunity to gain an education and the skills necessary for future employment,” the Salesians at Don Bosco Gumbo have noted and observed, “Without this camp, people would be left destitute with nothing to eat, nowhere to go and no access to any form of education.”

Poverty is endemic in South Sudan, with at least 82 percent of the population defined as income-poor and living on the equivalent of less than $1 per day, according to the World Bank.

More in Africa

Meanwhile, in neighboring Ethiopia, several meetings, headed by the Superior of the Salesian Vice Province of Ethiopia (AET), Fr. Hailemariam Medhin and bringing together various Salesian communities in the country, are ongoing to develop immediate measures to deal with COVID-19, which has infected at least 75 people.

“Among the measures decided: conducting awareness-raising campaigns, supplying health material and humanitarian aid to the poor,” the Salesians communication agency,  Agenzia INfo Salesiana has reported and added in rerence to Ethiopia, “The Salesian schools in the country are making significant efforts to provide students with online lessons.”

In Ethiopia, the Salesians have 14 educational centers catering for over 200,000 beneficiaries, including 30,000 young people. 

The Salesians have already expressed their willingness to offer all their infrastructure to accommodate those affected, should the crisis worsen, the Salesians communication agency has reported.