The COVID-19 Pandemic Vulnerability Factors in South Sudan

South Sudan is one of the most vulnerable countries to coronavirus disease (COVID19). The high level of vulnerability emanates from conflict induced state fragility, weak health system, high level of illiteracy, poverty and weak economic system, oil dependency, and natural disasters. While the COVID-19 infection rates have been low in South Sudan compared to countries in the region, fear has heightened with a recent jump in the number of cases in a country that has little capacity to address such a heath emergency. The pandemic has also overwhelmed the governance systems, even in developed nations, as current policies and institutions have not been specifically designed and tailored to weather the pandemic of this magnitude. This puts democratic processes in peril with high risks of elections and other democratic processes being skipped due to social distancing measures, posing extraordinary threats of entrenchment of authoritarian practices. Only the development of a vaccine or specific antiviral treatment can reverse this course. Even then, a vaccine coming in the next year or months is unlikely to be available on a mass scale. While the infection rates and death tolls are in millions and hundreds of thousands, respectively, in the developed world with strong health systems and policy interventions, the situation could be far worst in fragile and conflict afflicted states like South Sudan. This is due to capacity deficits in terms of resources, medical equipment and health personnel, infrastructure, and other essential services. Specifically, South Sudan along with 14 other countries, face a high risk of COVID-19 infections and impacts. These countries are poor, afflicted by years of protracted conflicts, prone to natural disasters, have high concentration of displaced persons in crowded camps, and have generally weak state capacity. This review is an attempt to highlight these factors, with the aim of generating policy options to strengthen public and government responses to the pandemic. We start with the vulnerability factors and analyse policy options before offering a menu of relevant policy pointers.