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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X


AKECH, Joseph Geng. Exacerbated inequalities: Implications of COVID-19 for the socio-economic rights of women and children in South Sudan. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2020, vol.20, n.2, pp.584-606. ISSN 1996-2096.

This article critically examines measures adopted by the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in South Sudan to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. It analyses the implications of such measures on constitutionalism and socio-economic rights of women and children. In so doing, it reveals that policy decisions adopted by the RTGoNU exclusively focused on fighting the Coronavirus at the expense of the socio-economic rights of zol meskin (common person). In particular, the decisions lack supportive social protection packages to cushion the low-income households that depend on daily hustling, impacted by the measures adopted. This led to a disproportionate impact on women and children whose rights to livelihoods and education are more adversely affected. Such policy decisions could deepen poverty margins that already exist in South Sudanese society. As schools remain closed, with the exception of primary eight and senior four candidates,1 the hope of more than 2.2 million children who are already out of the education system hangs in the balance.2 In sum, the article demonstrates that the fight against COVID-19 appears to have been won but at a cost of losing the fight against already-rampant socio-economic inequalities. This in part is due to the fact that, on the one hand, measures adopted to fight the pandemic appear to be successful at flattening the curve as revealed by the cumulative numbers of patients and deaths but, on the other, such policies have arguably exacerbated the socio-economic conditions of the poor who already live on the brink of famine as warned by the United Nations agencies in keeping with the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification reports.3 The article thus recommends that the government and policy makers should consider three critical lessons for the future: (a) strengthening social welfare sector to protect vulnerable households from sudden onsets; (b) enhance disaster risk and preparedness capacities to effectively deal with pandemics in a way that protects the most vulnerable people; and (c) strengthen democratic governance and rule of law as catalysts for well-managed emergency responses.

Keywords : COVID-19; South Sudan; exacerbated inequalities; zol meskin; women and children.

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