Covid-19 update from CEO, Mark Simmons
South Sudan now has 49 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and the government has announced new capacity to increase testing and tracking in the capital, Juba. There are only 4 ventilators in the whole country, although it is larger than any country in Europe (and over 2.5 times the size of the UK), and understandably it is among those countries singled out as being especially vulnerable in reports by the UN and non-governmental agencies alike. Indeed, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator has called on richer nations to increase their overseas aid spending, pointing out that protecting the most vulnerable 10% in the world would cost only 1% of what has so far been by the global north on shielding their own populations from the impact of the pandemic.
The crisis is affecting all of us in different ways, but as I have been writing to so many people in recent weeks to keep in touch, I have been reflecting on how easy it is to take literacy and connectivity for granted. How would we stay connected without internet access, or telephones, or the ability either to write a message or read it? Of course there are people around the world for whom this is true, and globally nearly twice as many women are illiterate as men. But this is especially acute in South Sudan, which has the world’s highest rates of illiteracy, particularly among women and girls.
Nearly every single student at Ibba Girls’ Boarding School reports that they are teaching their siblings and parents to read and write; the exception are those families who have been fortunate enough to access education. Not only are these students making a positive impact in their homes and communities by raising awareness of how the virus spreads and how to stay safe, they are also using this period to improve household literacy.
In the meantime at the school, a small team remains at work to keep the school site safe and well-maintained as the rainy season sets in. This also means that students who are staying in the local area can pick up and drop off books to support their continued studies (observing social distancing and hygiene rules). They and we are so grateful for your continued support.
We will continue to keep you updated, and in the coming weeks will also be taking the opportunity to share with you some of the recent inspiration we have received from our supporters, with some of the creative ways in which they have helped to raise the funds the school needs.
Mark Simmons, CEO