Impact of COVID-19 on women and girls in the Country

By Elia Joseph Loful

As the world exerts efforts to end the prevalence of coronavirus pandemic, South Sudan however is battling the virus amidst negligence, ignorance perceived by her own citizens. Agencies operating in the country report that the country has a fragile health system. As cases of the virus continue to rise on daily basis, it puts the nation at a higher risk of not containing the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, it is recorded that COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Older adults and people with severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung diseases or diabetes seems to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from Covid-19 pandemic.

Dorothy Drabuga, the Executive Director of Voice For Change (VFC), a national NGO operating in South Sudan says many women have experienced hardship due to lockdown since the confirmation of virus in the country. She argues that the government was doing little to contain the virus.

“Women in South Sudan have been affected in many ways, since this Covid-19 was confirmed in the country, many women and girls are said to be raped and their issues are not addressed by the government,” Dorothy argued.

Since the disease was reported in the country a number of women and girls continued suffered Gender Based violence by orchestrated by either ordinary civilians or people in uniform, Dorothy alleged.

She lamented that it was sad to learn about some parents who resorted to marry off of their daughters as a means to gain wealth for survival due to the hardship imposed on them by Covid-19.

“Another impact of this Covid-19 is early child marriage. This is because of the closure of schools, now many girls are getting married and others being impregnated. Some parents are marrying off their daughters due to the economic crisis they are facing in this lockdown,” she reiterated.

In South Sudan, majority of the families depend on less than $1 a day for survival -a situation being worsened by Covid-19. The Media has already reported that over 24 school girls have become pregnant as a cause of school closure and lockdown.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports for 2020 shows that an estimate of 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.  The report pointed out that ”Risks of gender based violence increase during emergencies. While the humanitarian response to gender-based violence (GBV) efforts are focused to reduce the risk of violence, advocate on behalf of survivors, ensure access to care, services, and strengthen local and national capacities to provide protection and support to women and girls.

 Sunday Mogga, the Executive Director of Grassroots Women Network Organization disclosed that presence of the disease has negatively affected women making them to be exposed to situations of being raped.

“This situation has created economic vacuum on women because most of the places where they used to have business have been closed down,”Mogga said.

Mogga said some parents do not take time to advice their daughters on matters that could protect them. She added that many schoolboys have now joined wrong groups such drugs abuse which can ruin their lives.

“Even now many women bare burdens from all sides, their boys are now drinking alcohol and taking drugs, committing crimes in the communities because they are idle,”Mogga explained.

She further stressed that social crimes have rapidly increased in Juba City since the virus started. She calls on the parties to quickly address the security arrangement mechanisms, as stipulated in the Revitalized Peace Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

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