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Juba’s Archdiocesan COVID-19 Taskforce Created for “awareness”, Archbishop Explains

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of South Sudan's Juba Archdiocese,

The recently created COVId-19 taskforce for the Archdiocese of Juba in South Sudan will reach out to people at the grassroots, raising awareness about the disease and providing assistance to patients, the Archbishop of Juba told ACI Africa in an interview.

We formed a task force last Saturday (May 2). Its specific mandate is to give awareness to our people in the parishes, at the centers, to reach them by the radio and also by sending messages to them,” Archbishop Stephen Ameyu told ACI Africa Friday, May 8.

He explained in reference to the territory covered by the only Metropolitan See in South Sudan, “The churches have a better place to reach the people at the grassroots because we are spread all over the centers in Equatoria and so we can go even to the remotest part of central Equatoria better than the highest taskforce.”

Forming the taskforce was necessary because “this large area extending southwards, eastwards, westwards and then northwards of the city has not been fully informed about the disease,” Archbishop Ameyu said.

He added, “Some of the centres do not receive the message sent by radio and other things. We would like to send some messages through text messages and also physical written leaflets to the far communities.”

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The Archdiocesan taskforce comes weeks after the South Sudan government formed a  High-Level Task Force (HLTF) chaired by the country’s Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, after the declaration of the pandemic. 

HLTF is tasked with coordinating and communicating to the citizens of the world’s youngest nation the measures needed for the prevention and spread of the disease in the country.

According to the Local Ordinary of Juba, the Archdiocesan Taskforce will complement and provide support for the national HLTF.

“We are all together with the High Task Force,” Archbishop Ameyu said and explained, “it is always good to have a big task force, a national one, but at the grassroot level, I don’t think the highest task force reaches.” 

“We are going to help those people in the hospitals, people in other institutions, in order to complement the goal of the national taskforce,” the South Sudanese Prelate said and added, “Our ability to reach the grassroot levels is what will distinguish us from the highest task force.”

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He said the Archdiocesan Taskforce “will always work in our parishes, in centres, if there are cases of this coronavirus in the communities… we will be the ones to alert the highest taskforce at the national level because we do not have the testing apparatus.” 

According to the 56-year-old Archbishop, the team that comprises priests, nuns and the laity has an objective “to make our community COVID-19 free.”

“Our main task is to help anybody who is affected by this pandemic,” he said and added, “If it happens that some people are (suspected to be infected), then we can try to help them, bring them, maybe, to centers where there is a possibility of examination.”

He further said that the taskforce will “work for the whole humanity” in the country, regardless of religion.

“The Catholic Church works for everybody, not only working for those who are baptized in the Catholic Church,” he underscored.

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“This question of COVID-19 is not a selective sickness; it is for all of us,” the Archbishop said and added, “If we can help Muslims, Christians of other denominations who are sick, we can help them.” 

He said that the activities of the taskforce will undergo a weekly evaluation, “in order to also assess whether this COVID-19 has spread to some of our far most centers.”

The world’s youngest nation has confirmed 74 cases of the virus.

The Initiative by the Archdiocese of Juba comes days after the leadership of the Juba-based United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) launched a 14-day campaign on raising awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the campaign that started Wednesday, May 6, UNMISS leadership said, “We’re sending out the same message everywhere in languages that people understand - Keep safe, keep your distance, and wash your hands.”