, 20 May, 2020 / 4:20 AM
As South Sudan continues to face considerable challenges in the fight against COVID-19 amid lack of sufficient resources in health facilities, the Catholic Bishops in collaboration with Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS) have donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to four Catholic health facilities in the Archdiocese of Juba.
Some 100-litre liquid soap, a carton of hand sanitizers, two packets of gloves and one packet of face masks were channeled to the health facilities through the national Catholic Health Department in South Sudan.
The Bishops through their Juba-based Secretariat could, however, only support four out of 45 health facilities because of what Health Coordinator in the South Sudan’s Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat (SSCBS), Dr. Thomas Tongun Leone noted as lack of enough resources.
“We are only able to get PPEs for the four health centers because the budget is not enough to support all,” Dr. Tongun told ACI Africa Friday, May 15.
The Catholic medic said the Catholic Health Department is now looking forward to supplying the other remaining four health centers in Juba and to the other Catholic dioceses in South Sudan.
The four health centers that received support included the Sacred Heart Sisters PHCC, St. Kizito PHCC, Sacred Heart Kworijik PHCC, and Three Angels Health Center in Kator.
Distribution of equipment commenced on Friday May 15 at the Archdiocesan six-month old Three Angels Health Center where the metropolitan Archbishop of Juba, Stephen Ameyu blessed the materials for all the four health facilities.
According to Dr. Tongun, the act of charity for the newly initiated and other facilities was an intervention to challenges that healthcare providers who are on the frontline of fighting the pandemic are facing.
“We are giving these materials in response to the COVID 19 pandemic crisis,” Dr. Tongun said and added, “We wanted to help at least the health facilities, which are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic.”
In his remarks after the blessing session, the Chairman of the Catholic Task Force, Auxiliary Bishop Santo Loku Pio said it is a collective responsibility to protect health workers and patients.
“We have to protect those at the frontline. Sisters are at the frontline; all patients are brought here and it is our collective responsibility to try our best to get them protected,” Auxiliary Bishop Santo Loku Pio told the audience of priests, nuns and staff at the health facility.
Next on the Catholic Task force agenda is to source for funds and thereafter extend PPE materials to the remaining 41 Catholic centers that include six hospitals under the Catholic administration in the country.
“Our next move is to lobby for funding from all the donors around to support us with the remaining health facilities that we have in the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba and all those in the other dioceses,” said Dr. Tongun.
Commenting on President Kiir’s criticism by the doctors’ trade union in the country, blaming him for relaxing restrictions that had been put in place to prevent the possible spread of the disease, Dr. Tongun said he saw the government decision as influenced by the economic crisis and warned of possible threats.
“The government thought that it is better to lift restrictions due to the economic crisis that people are facing,” he said and warned, “The danger is that once they don’t follow the procedure that they are supposed to be, it means that the disease is going to escalate.”
“Relaxing these restrictions will lead to a lot of damages and so that is the concern the doctors’ union have about the lifting of restrictions by the government,” he clarified.
Reiterating last week’s call by the Church leaders in South Sudan making prevention a personal commitment, the doctor said, “My view is that the people now take a personal responsibility to implement the preventive measures that the health authorities have given.”
“I want to add to the voices that COVID 19 is real and we need to take all precautions to contain the spread of this deadly virus,” he said.
Dr. Tongun called upon the government and other health partners to boost awareness, support staff attending to the patients and implement directives given to the public.
“Let us really support the health facilities that we have and the staff who are at the forefront in the war against COVID 19, putting their lives in danger while at it” he said and added, “We need to call upon the government, the health partners to come in and support us to fight this COVID- 19 together.”
Sr. Tirhas Araya, the Administrator of the Three Angels Health Center expressed excitement about PPE materials delivered to them, noting that the materials were expensive.
“We tried to buy some protective masks only to find that 15v pieces cost fifteen thousand pounds ($50). But now we are thankful to the Catholic secretariat, at least the problem is solved,” Sr. Tirhas told ACI Africa in an interview on May 15.
At the blessings of the PPEs at Three Angels Health Center, Archbishop Ameyu urged the citizens of South Sudan, especially the various taskforces, to cooperate with each other.
“We need to work together from the highest taskforce to the lowest taskforce that we have in the country,” Archbishop Ameyu told the audience and added, “We as the people of the Church, we are all involved; we can participate socially but let’s also participate pastorally.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa