Families in the refugee camp in Maban, South Sudan, where Irish Jesuit Tony O’Riordan works, have one bar of soap to last them a month – just one of the challenges facing refugees as the government of one of the poorest countries in the world struggles to keep the coronavirus at bay.
Tony O’Riordan is in lockdown in Limerick, having returned from South Sudan in March for a holiday. He cannot return to work there until travel restrictions are lifted. He is now living with Jesuits Joe Hayes and Jim Maher in their community in Dooradoyle, Limerick.
Tony is in daily contact with the Jesuit Refugee Service in South Sudan as they try to source funding for more soap so that people in the camps can wash their hands regularly.
He is able to work online. It is important, he notes, to get accurate information into the public domain in South Sudan to counter some of the myths that are circulating rapidly. The photo is of a home-made hand washing station in the Batil refugee camp, where the Jesuit Refugee Service is supporting a public health education campaign to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Tony also outlines the other challenges facing people in the country as a whole, as South Sudan struggles to rebuild itself after years of conflict and division.
He describes the path to a fragile peace that has given hope to the people of Sudan South Sudan. And he explains the role Pope Francis played in brokering that peace.
There are serious challenges facing South Sudan in the months ahead. Tony outlines the fears people have regarding the spread of the coronavirus, not just in that country but across the entire African continent.
In the longer term, there is also the huge task of rebuilding the country. South Sudan has great potential in terms of its population and its resources, according to Tony. If managed properly, he says, the country could be working well in a number of years.