Quite often, we like to believe Humanitarian aid to the less privileged or needy communities is a noble human gesture, a sign that despite what goes on around us across the globe, we are still human beings first. However it’s a common finding that “the good gestures are always overridden by evil business intentions.
Among the long list of nations suffering this same notion, South Sudan is not alone when it comes to COVID-19 corruption allegations. But some are asking whether there is a better way to provide aid in the world’s youngest country.
Juba, South Sudan – When the pandemic struck, many feared South Sudan could be one of the hardest hit countries in Africa – years of conflict had hollowed out its healthcare system and the threat of famine was on the horizon.
In 2020, the European Union allocated €59 million for humanitarian actions covering the response to floods, COVID-19, and food insecurity across South Sudan.
With emergency levels of food insecurity and malnutrition across the country, the EU provides food assistance and nutrition interventions, including in hard-to-reach areas. EU humanitarian funds support the acquisition and distribution of nutrition products, including ready-to-use therapeutic foods for the treatment of malnourished children and mothers.
Heeding the warnings, the European Union, the United States and the World Bank chipped in more than $100m for the COVID-19 response, while the International Monetary Fund has given some $200m in loans.
Worrying death toll projections have yet to materialise – fewer than 150 people have died of the virus in the past year despite a recent uptick in cases – but familiar patterns of alleged profiteering emerged after the first cases were reported.
A black market appeared for COVID-19 tests that were supposed to be free. An inflated contract was awarded to a company to renovate a hospital that still sits empty. And the government authorized one small outfit to produce hand sanitizer – while banning imports of the product as people scrambled to find supplies. The New Humanitarian found these and other examples after interviewing nearly 30 government officials, business owners and aid workers, as well as reviewing documents, emails and text messages as part of an eight-month investigation with Al Jazeera.
“Every time there is a crisis, the government ignores its citizens, relies on international aid, (and) doesn’t help its own people,” said Edmund Yakani, head of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, or CEPO, a civil society group in South Sudan.