We are pleased to report that South Sudan still has only 4 confirmed cases of Covid-19. The high-level task force has announced this morning (22 April) that strict measures will continue. These include a curfew (8pm to 6am), bans on public gatherings, and the closure of some businesses. Unlike in some parts of the world, the government has no capacity to provide financial support to those most in need, and even before the pandemic many public service salaries had been unpaid for months.
Yesterday (21 April), a World Health Organisation consignment of face masks, hand sanitiser, liquid soap and awareness-raising material was delivered to the Covid-19 task force in Maridi, some 24 miles east of Ibba Girls’ School. An intensive campaign is underway to raise awareness of how the virus spreads, and to quash rumours that it only affects foreigners or cannot survive the country’s intense heat. Ibba Girls’ students are part of this awareness-raising in their communities, and the school’s staff and governors are planning how to manage the impact on the education of Ibba students so that they are ready for when the school is allowed to re-open.
Today is also the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, and a timely reminder of the environmental benefits of our radically altered way of life. This is true in South Sudan just as it is in other parts of the world, although carbon emissions in South Sudan were already 15 times lower per capita than in the UK.
Livelihoods in the part of South Sudan around Ibba and in wider Western Equatoria are largely dependent on agriculture, and this is one of the most difficult times of the year. The growing season is usually between May and September, so by now last year’s harvests have been exhausted, and this year’s crops have yet to be planted, cultivated and harvested. In other parts of the country it is also the time of the year when those who herd cattle are again on the move in search of new pastures, sometimes resulting in deadly clashes.
We are thankful that South Sudan’s warring parties had already agreed to implement a peace deal before the outbreak, which is enabling them to work together to fight the spread of the disease. However, concerns have been raised that the focus on addressing the Covid-19 crisis could lead to damaging delays for the peace deal. This is a country on the road which had been showing some promising steps towards stabilisation, but which continues to need our full support.
We recognise that our supporters will be affected in different ways by the crisis. If you are able to do so, please do consider becoming a student sponsor by committing to a regular donation. You can find details of this and other ways to donate on our website, including how to become a Guardian of Ibba Girls’ School by remembering FIGS in your will or making a gift in memory of a loved one.
As always, thank you for your friendship of Ibba Girls’ School.
Mark Simmons, CEO