By Parach Mach
JUBA, South Sudan
South Sudan – the world’s youngest nation, after gaining independence from old Sudan in 2011 – faces many challenges, including a lack of clean water and proper sanitation, leading to several cholera outbreaks.
An estimated 50-60 percent of people in South Sudan – or half of the population – has no access to safe drinking water, such as a hand pump, a protected well, or a piped water supply, which only benefits a minority.
The country’s troubled legacy of conflict, environmental degradation, and under-investment in water infrastructure has seriously affected the availability of drinking water.
Due to a lack of clean water and thereby proper sanitation, there have been several cholera outbreaks in South Sudan. As of July 2015, there were 1,396 cholera cases reported in the Juba and Bor counties in the country’s northeast. In Juba County alone, 1,280 cases of cholera, including 41 deaths, occurred.
Sadly, even those with access to improved water sources often do not receive safe water while those without access to an improved water source often fetch water from rivers, ponds, or open wells.
Less than 15 percent of Juba residents can access municipal water supplied mainly through a small piped network, boreholes, and a single public water filling station on the riverbank. The public system is complemented by a patchwork of small private water suppliers, which end up delivering relatively expensive, low-quality water.
“We are often cheated by water suppliers. They keep on raising water prices and we have resorted to drinking Nile water, which is unhealthy,” Juba resident Monykuer Tuak told Anadolu Agency.
According to South Sudan’s Ministry of Electricity, Dams and Water Resources, there are about 250-300 registered trucks supplying water throughout Juba city. However, the delivery of water to households has fallen by 30 percent as fuel became more expensive following the 2015 South Sudanese currency devaluation.
“Lack of clean water was responsible for the cholera outbreak last year and I am wondering what the government is thinking, especially when rainy season is approaching,” another resident of the capital said.
Eleven private filling stations pump water from the Nile, which is then distributed by water trucks and bicycle vendors. Water is also produced by bottling water factories. But as fuel costs have reportedly increased, operation overheads have also gone up by around 35 percent.
Ethiopian Water Companies went on strike last week after the Juba City Council issued a decree to control water prices.
Yar Paul Kuol, a director of the South Sudan Urban Water Cooperation, blames the poor supply of water on the city’s low power supply, the use of old water filters, and increased water supply to new areas.
The Japanese government earmarked an additional fund for the Project for Improvement of the Water Supply System of Juba, with total disbursement amounting to approximately $40 million to address the cost increase due to the political crisis and keep the project scale as originally planned.
This project aims to improve access to safe water for people in Juba by expanding the capacity of water treatment and scaling up water distribution. In this project, Japan set up a new water treatment plant, a service reservoir, eight water tank stations, and 120 water points in Juba.
By the end of September 2017, officials say, as much as 390,000 of Juba residents will have ready access to safe drinking water at home.
“This project not only fulfills the basic needs of individuals but also facilitates the healthy and productive life of women and children in the communities. Reduction of the work for fetching water will immediately emancipate women and children from labor: women will have extra hours to engage in other employment opportunities, and children, in turn, will learn better in the newly gained hours of studies,” said Kiya Masahiko, the Japanese ambassador to South Sudan.
“Furthermore, improved public health through the use of safe, stable water supply will decrease the morbidity from waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and typhoid,” he added.
The Millennium Development Goal target for drinking water was reportedly achieved in 2010, but, in 2015, 663 million people still lack improved drinking water sources. The world missed the sanitation target by almost 700 million people, with 2.4 billion still lacking improved sanitation facilities and 946 million practicing open defecation.
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