Vietnam drums support for South Sudan
A Vietnamese diplomat to the United Nations has called on nations to support and acknowledge the progress made in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.
Addressing the United Nations Security Council virtual meeting last week, Dang Dinh Quy, head of Vietnam mission to the United Nations, commended signatories to the peace deal despite remarkable challenges posed by SARS-CoV-2.
Acknowledging the prevalence of hostilities in some parts of the country, the Vietnam representative sympathized with the revitalized transitional government caught between preventing the spread of COVID-19 and calming rife insecurity.
Quy said despite rising tensions, which have been blamed on the absence of government at state levels, the ceasefire has been observed.
Emphasizing Vietnam’s support to South Sudan through the United Nations Mission in the country, Quy informed participants at the meeting about efforts being exerted by Vietnam’s Level-2 Field Hospital in Bentiu during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vietnam which has 68 officers, including 11 females in the UN Mission in South Sudan officially took part in the peacekeeping operations by sending two officers to UNMISS in 2014 before establishing its Level-2 Field Hospital in Bentiu in 2018.
The hospital has handled 927 patients since the beginning of the year 2020, with its members also taking part in the anti-COVID-19 training for UN staff and the local population.
In a related development, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, David Shearer, and the Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization Edmund Yakani said there has been notable progress in the implementation process of the agreement, especially with the recent resolution on the allocation of states.
Shearer reiterated UN support to the South Sudan peace process and how Africa’s youngest nation can be rescued from the dire health situation catapulted by the coronavirus.
“We are here, standing strong with you as we pass through this COVID-19 emergency. The UN, humanitarian agencies and donors have remained and, together, we are saving and changing lives. By working together, we can overcome COVID and, also, push the peace process forward so South Sudan can achieve the lasting peace and prosperity it deserves,” Shearer said.
However, Mr. Shearer raised concern over rising cases of the novel coronavirus warning that the virus could spin out of control and overwhelm the country’s fragile health system if the government does not collaborate.
“A unity government, by definition, takes decisions collaboratively – whether as a presidency or cabinet. This way of working needs to become a habit, not an exception,” he said. “A unity government acts in the best interests of all its people regardless of ethnic identity and should act collectively and swiftly to curtail conflict in the states.”
Shearer detailed the twin threat posed by COVID-19 and escalating conflict in several regions across the country saying it could unravel the ceasefire.
The country is engulfed by a deep-seated concern that the additional pressure of responding to COVID-19 on the already weak health system will disrupt vaccinations, maternal health services, and treatment for curable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia, resulting in a devastating increase in preventable deaths.
“COVID is going to hit hard. But not in the way that we think. Yes, people will die from the virus, like everywhere else in the world.
“But the real threat to the people of South Sudan lies in the collapse of the already fragile health system. This could result in many, many more lives being lost – a tragedy that can be prevented,” Shearer warned.
While the Infectious Diseases Hospital has been expanded with support from the international community and the Ministry of Health, Personal Protective Equipment and expertise remained severely lacking; similar problems faced by hospitals renovated by UNMISS across the ten states.
“We are doing what we can to give limited care to critical patients who previously had nothing. More importantly, these measures are designed to reduce the risk of COVID transmission to other facilities that are treating common but lethal illnesses,” said Shearer.
Shearer stressed the need for the government to prioritize the well-being of health workers, who are reportedly ill-treated and going for months without salaries.
“To keep clinics open, it is imperative that health workers have Personal Protective Equipment. Already 86 health workers have been infected. PPE is in short supply and health workers are fearful. Their salaries continue to go unpaid,” he said.