Coronavirus and aid: What we’re watching, 9-15 April

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The New Humanitarian


South Sudan: UN staff restricted after first cases, rise in online xenophobia

South Sudan has confirmed its first three cases of coronavirus this week, all are UN staff members. The first case had been in the country for five weeks before the onset of symptoms. The other two had recently flown into the country from Nairobi. South Sudanese soldiers have surrounded UN peacekeeping bases in the capital, Juba, and in the town of Malakal. Following a rise in social media-driven xenophobic sentiment, the UN is authorising only essential movement by staff. Some non-UN aid agencies are following the same advice. (9 April)

Previously, the government announced the closure of all airports and land crossings on 23 March. Excluded from the ban are cargo and relief flights, as well as food trucks and fuel tankers. But all drivers are required to undergo medical tests at the border. Upcoming rotations of UN peacekeepers are on hold, and in-country flights have been restricted, according to the UN peacekeeping mission.

For aid staff still in the country, all R&R leave for expatriate staff has been suspended until 15 April, when the situation will be reviewed. “Part of my team is either out of the country or locked up in their apartments,” one aid worker said. “It’s a mindset shift to the new reality,” but after years of war, “this is not the first time working under extreme conditions”. A senior humanitarian official, currently in quarantine, predicted a jump in staff turnover, and said “it will be 10 times harder to find replacements”. (19 March)