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South Sudan’s visually impaired persons bear the brunt of COVID-19

JUBA – The visually impaired persons in South Sudan have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic amid fractured livelihoods and negligible support from the state.

Stella Peter, a visually impaired person who is a resident of the capital Juba said that every day is a nightmare for her as she struggles to earn a living at a time when the economy has taken a beating due to the pandemic.

“We, the disabled, most of us cannot afford to buy food. I cannot move out to find a manual job that can bring a little earning, the daily income is difficult to get,” Peter told Xinhua during an interview in Juba on Monday.

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She said that she used to operate a thriving business in Juba that met her needs but has now experienced a slump in sales immediately the first COVID-19 case was reported in the country.

“I used to sell sweets but with the current situation of COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for sweets has disappeared. Worst still, by then I was purchasing a packet at 500 South Sudanese pounds (about 1.5 U.S. dollars) and now that packet cost 2.5 dollars,” said Peter.

“I am no longer making a profit in the business. I cannot manage to pay the hiked bus fare,” she added.

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Roda Atanasio, the chairperson of South Sudan Women with Disabilities Network (SSWDN), said that their plight has worsened due to COVID-19.

“The women with disabilities face difficulties and most of them are not working and to make it worse, they cannot see. The situation is yet to improve,” said Atanasio.

Cornelio Wani Ladu, the deputy chairperson for Equatoria State Union of the Visually Impaired (ESUVI), said their challenges include lack of awareness on COVID-19 containment measures and poverty.

Ladu said there are nearly 400 people living with visual impairments in Juba alone, noting that these categories of citizens are not either government employees or self-employed.

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Julius Wani, a visually impaired teacher urged the government and charity organizations to provide personal protective equipment to his colleagues whose risks of contracting the virus are high.

South Sudan has 1,989 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 246 recoveries and 36 deaths as of Sunday.

Wani Lawrence Akola, director-general for planning and coordination in South Sudan’s Industry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster management, said the government will soon deliver assistance to the vulnerable groups whose livelihoods have been disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic.

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