South Sudan’s Wau Diocese Dismisses Some 5,000 IDPs for Fear of COVID-19

Fr. Marco Mongu, Diocesan Administrator Wau Diocese, South Sudan.

The administration of South Sudan’s Wau Diocese has sent home more than 5,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in a move that the diocese says will depopulate the Catholic church premises to curb the possible spread of COVID-19 that has already been reported in the country’s capital, Juba.

The IDPs have been residing at Wau Catholic Mission located 650 kilometers northwest of the capital Juba.

“There were about 5,000 IDPs in my compound. I had to ask them to leave the compound in a week,” South Sudan’s Wau Diocesan Administrator, Fr. Marco Mongu told ACI Africa Monday, April 27.

“I gave them an order to leave the Church premises. They had been with me for four years,” Fr. Mongu said, adding that the reasons behind the dismissal was COVID-19 and the reigning peace in Africa’s youngest nation.

“Now there is peace and there is coronavirus coming, they have to move,” he said.


The South Sudanese Cleric recalled that the IDPs did not take the dismissal kindly saying, “Some (IDPs) were angry, some were reluctant and I told them this is for your own protection because crowded people will not be good for Corona time.”

Fr. Mongu explained that the IDPs first entered the Catholic Mission in 2016, taking up most of the space at the St Mary’s Cathedral, Logologo and Sika-adiit churches as a result of the escalated civil war that broke out in December 2013.

“This month (April 2020), the IDPs have gone back to their home because I took it seriously; I told them it is dangerous for them,” he told ACI Africa, adding, “If one (of IDPs) is infected here in the compound, they will not be coming in and going out; about 5,000 people in one place is very dangerous.”

There has been a spike in the cases of COVID-19 in the country, from the six reported in a previous briefing to 34 after 28 more people tested positive for the virus, South Sudan’s Health Minister informed the High-Level Taskforce on COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday, April 28.

“This is a sixty-year-old South Sudanese national who is not sick, did not complain of anything, but he was tested because he wants to travel to one of the states of South Sudan,” the spokesperson of COVID-19 taskforce in South Sudan, Dr. Makur Koriom affirmed Sunday, April 26.

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The head of Wau Diocese that has been vacant since the death of Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak in March 2017 shared some preventive approaches laid down by his leadership in the second most populated city of South Sudan.

“We are preparing to prevent the disease; we have some groups, a task force, or whatever it is, but we do not have the facilities, the protective gear… we have nothing,” he said.

With the incomplete government in place, and no governors appointed in all ten states of the country since the unity government was constituted February 22, the diocesan Administrator of South Sudan’s Wau believes that implementing the lockdown is the work of the organized forces.

“When we talk about the government, people think of the governor. No, for me there is security, there is police, there are leaders acting, and there are military. They have to implement the (lockdown) order,” he said.

He added and emphasized, “The president has spoken and even the Holy Father has written a letter. We have to implement it (lockdown) at least to protect our citizens, our civilians. There are police, there are security, there are the military, and these are the people to implement this order, not the governors.”


Fr. Mongu lamented that the citizens of South Sudan, particularly in his diocese, ignore the directives on COVID 19 due to lack of awareness.

“They are not aware; they are not informed; they are not told,” he said and added, “When they see the police implementing the order to stay at home, that is when they will know it is serious.”

He also blames the poor understanding of COVID-19 among members of the public on lack of education.

 “They say what is corona?” he recalled people’s rhetorical questions in his pastoral region, adding, “They say it is far away; but I tell them it is in Juba and Juba is not far from Wau.”

In his message to the implementing agencies, the organized forces, the South Sudanese Cleric urged the police and the military to obey the presidential orders.

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“I am sure when the soldiers are moving around with their guns, people know that there is something dangerous. We should not keep quiet. Prevention is better than cure,” he said.

“I have got friends in Italy; I have got friends in America; I have got friends in Germany, in France, in the UK; they are always telling me, Father, if you want to be safe, stay in one place, don’t move from there, buy food and stay in your place, don’t move,” Fr. Mongu said.

Meanwhile, Salesians of Don Bosco in the neighboring diocese of Rumbek have partnered with John Lee Memorial Hospital to offer medicines to some 325 IDPs suffering from various diseases in Tonj, located northwest of the country.

“We went to Kuelchok (IDPs’ Camp) because we heard that many people are suffering there without medicines, food, and other facilities,” Salesian of Don Bosco Sister, Shanty Anthony who led the team told Don Bosco Radio, one of the radios of the Catholic Radio Network (CRN). 

According to Sr. Shanty, the thousands of people in Kuelchok area, which is about 15 kilometres southwest of the Catholic Mission of Tonj, were displaced two months ago by inter-communal clashes.

Sr. Shanty who is also the director of Don Bosco Radio said that it was not easy to reach and offer medication to the IDPs, many who are suffering from malaria, owing to COVID-19 lockdown in the country.  Many of the IDPs, according to the Indian-born nun, are also suffering from diarrhea and gastritis.

John Lee Memorial Hospital is a medical facility in honor of a South Korean Salesian doctor and priest who, until his death in 2010, ministered in the parish of Tonj. Fr. John Lee (photo above) succumbed to a chronic disease at the age of 48.

In January, memorial Masses were celebrated in South Korea and in Tonj to mark 10 years since the death of Fr. John Lee. Remembered for his missionary zeal to serve the poor and share the Gospel as a medical professional and an accomplished musician, Fr. John Lee has been described as the “Don Bosco of Tonj.”