The Economic Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic in South Sudan

The COVID-19 outbreak presents three lessons for South Sudan, with 156 confirmed cases to-date. First, the government’s policy to clamp down on social gatherings is not as effective as assumed. Granted the streets are indeed empty now compared to the pre-policy period, but the crowds have shifted elsewhere—residences, neighborhoods’ tea stalls, recreational clubs, and commercial facilities, including supermarkets and banks. This certainly sustains the potential risk of spreading the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, firms and individuals in South Sudan are going through severe economic stress. Some aspects of the government’s intervention have not been helpful. Banks and firms are losing money due to the shortened hours of operation. Nevertheless, there is no proof that restricting the operational hours to just 4 a day indeed curbs increased exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, following the introduction of the new policy, commercial banks have attracted more crowds than ever before, a recipe for health hazards the government is intended on abating. The final lesson is that South Sudan remains unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the public and private sectors demonstrate very little preparedness in response to the outbreak. The government, notably fiscally impaired, has allocated minuscule of resources to avert the attendant and impending impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This underlying lack of commensurate resources means fewer equipped health facilities for the care of the sick, fewer optimally trained health professionals deployed to manage the crisis, and strained health education. Health institutions, both public and private, are ill-prepared to adequately respond to the virus. Several obstacles abound. The increasing cost of medical and public health supplies is suffocating for a vast majority of health institutions. Demand for other health services at hospitals and clinics has drastically plummeted, slashing incomes that could be leveraged to support the COVID-19’s preparedness and response. An escalating cost of transport, coupled with an early curfew, restricts the health facilities’ operations. Personal protection equipment and hygiene items are highly scarce, making prevention efforts almost futile.