Three hundred people who were held as slaves in Sudan have returned home to South Sudan after a slave liberation operation conducted by CSI in the first week of April. At the same time, CSI organized a workshop to raise awareness among former slaves about the coronavirus pandemic.
The freed slaves – men, women and children – were all returned to their home districts of Aweil north and east districts. Awareness of the virus was very low, both among those returning and those who were resettled in the area earlier, according to CSI’s project manager. “Among the former slaves, life in the region is normal, no one has been talking or thinking about the virus until today, ” said Franco Majok.
He said the slave retrievers had not heard of any cases of coronavirus in the remote areas of Sudan where they work and did not believe that coronavirus would affect their work.
South Sudan is currently one of the countries least affected by Covid-19. As of April 7 just one case had been recorded. But many more people could be affected as the world’s newest country lacks the means to test for coronavirus.
If the virus were to spread quickly it could have a devastating impact in South Sudan, which is desperately short of medical facilities and health workers. CSI is taking the threat very seriously and asked Daniel Deng, the health worker who provides medical assistance to returning slaves, to organize a workshop on how to minimize the risk of contracting and spreading the infection.
Deng outlined the key hygiene rules, such as washing your hands frequently, avoiding shaking hands, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, keeping a distance from others and staying at home. Volunteers helped by showing people how to wash their hands properly.
Before the workshop, people relied solely on prayer and traditional practices to protect themselves from the disease, said Majok. “People woke up early in the morning and started beating drums, singing aloud and burning fires, asking God to take the coronavirus away from them. They also ordered everyone to drink tea without sugar. These are the things the Dinka people did in the old days when there were no hospitals.”